City of Long Beach halts use of weed killer linked to cancer

Roundup will no longer be used in parks pending more investigation into product’s risks

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At Tuesday’s Long Beach City Council meeting, Gerardo Mouet, director of Parks, Recreation & Marine, recommended that the City halt its use of Roundup, a product used as a weed killer that contains glyphosate, a chemical that has been possibly linked to cancer.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup, has been making national news lately, after a San Francisco jury ordered the Bayer company, which recently purchased Monsanto, to pay $289 million in damages to a school caretaker who developed the blood-cell cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma after years of using the herbicide.

A recent report by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group also found glyphosate in several breakfast cereals that are popular with children, and scientists worldwide have been attempting to halt the use of the chemical in crops.

The concern over the substance reached the local level this week, when the Long Beach City Council agreed that the City should quit using Roundup and explore other weed-abatement methods.

Gerardo Mouet, who is in his third month as director of the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department, addressed the city council during its meeting Tuesday night and indicated that the City should halt the use of the product until further information is available.

“One of the issues you may have heard about is Roundup, with regard to being on the list with Prop 65, as well as some recent news with regard to a court ruling […]” Mouet said. “I recommend that we stop using Roundup in the parks. The maintenance contract, as you know, is not just [for] the parks, it’s also the golf courses, the street medians, the landscape around the police [stations], the library facilities. But right now, we’re going to stop using Roundup– the chemical in question is glyphosate– so we can have time to assess and have an understanding of the regulations that are being placed on this chemical.”

Second District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce said that her constituents “have been waiting to end Roundup for a while.”

During the discussion, Mayor Robert Garcia sought clarification on what the council’s and staff’s decision is concerning Roundup.

Mouet responded by saying that his department has already stopped its use in parks, however they will continue using it on golf courses and medians, for the time being.

Garcia expressed confusion as to why the product will no longer be sprayed in parks but will still be used in other areas.

“I would feel better if we just stopped, completely, using Roundup,” Garcia said.

The council agreed that it would discuss the matter further at its next meeting two weeks later.

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Mouet explained to the Signal Tribune that he made the recommendation because, effective July 7, 2017, glyphosate is listed under Proposition 65, a law enacted by California voters in 1986 that mandates notification and labeling of all products that the State has determined to potentially add to a person’s cancer risk or may cause harm to unborn children or other reproductive harm.

In a press release Wednesday, the Long Beach Coalition for Non-Toxic Parks and Schools, which was formed two years ago to remove herbicides and pesticides from City parks and schools because of evidence that those substances were causing cancer, thanked the mayor and city council for supporting Mouet’s recommendation.

“The members of the Long Beach Coalition for Non-Toxic Parks and Schools want to thank Mayor Garcia and members of the city council, who agreed last night to stop the spraying of Roundup in City parks and in City median strips,” the press release states. “We especially want to thank the newly appointed director of Parks, Recreation and Marine, Gerardo Mouet, who recommended that this herbicide not be used by the Azteca Landscape services, with which the City contracts to take care of parks and median strips. We request the city council seek assistance from the City of Irvine and the Non-Toxic Irvine organization to discuss the safe, effective and affordable alternatives they have been using for several years since they removed Roundup.”

However, the Coalition also expressed concern for workers who have been spraying the substance.

“Finally, for the past two years, […] we have monitored landscaping contractors and City workers [who] spray Roundup in the parks, alleys and median strips without masks or available hand-washing facilities,” the press release states. “In light of the recent $289-million-dollar lawsuit won by a school groundskeeper, who alleges that he has terminal cancer because of his exposure to Roundup, we ask the City to identify, test and treat any of the Public Works staff who may be at risk because of their use of Roundup. We are hopeful that City contractors will do the same.”