Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Alyssa Erdley
Observer Staff Writer 

Poison Control: Roundup Continues to be Used by City of Santa Monica

Use continues after $289 million judgment against Monsanto for poisoning a groundskeeper.

 

March 14, 2019

Santa Monica has and continues to use Roundup in certain applications in its parks and open spaces to control weeds but has taken actions similar to other cities to reduce the amount and locations of its use. 

The weedkiller Roundup, a product of Monsanto, continues to be used in Santa Monica's public spaces despite a recent $289 million dollar judgment against Monsanto for the terminal illness of school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson.

The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate. In July, 2017, glyphosate was added to the State of California's Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

In an email, Dean Kubani, Assistant Director of Public Works, defended the city's use of Roundup. Kubani cites the unique effectiveness of Roundup and what he described as a lack of consensus among scientific organizations regarding the dangers of glyphosate. "The listing [of glyphosate on the Prop 65 list of carcinogens] was based on findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)." But Kubani claims "the science is not settled with regard to glyphosate and human health impacts."

These actions began in FY 2015-16 (prior to the listing of glyphosate on the Proposition 65 list) as part of our integrated pest management (IPM) efforts to significantly reduce all harmful chemical use in public buildings, parks and open spaces

Kubani says the IARC is the only scientific body to categorize the chemical as dangerous. "[t]There is a consensus among other pesticide regulatory agencies and scientific bodies throughout the world including the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the European Commission, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and others that glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.  The U.S. EPA's December 2017 draft risk assessment concluded that glyphosate "is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans."

It was mostly due to "resident concern" and "an abundance of caution" that Santa Monica, in addition to other cities in California, took action to reduce the use of Roundup, says Kubani. He claims the weedkiller is not used in park playgrounds or in dog runs. It is applied by licensed pest control applicators in a manner to not come into contact with people. In addition, the city has reduced the use of Roundup by over 55 percent since 2015.

Currently, Monsanto is the defendant in a civil trial involving Edwin Hardeman, a 70-year-old man from Santa Rosa who claims he developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup for 30 years. There are 9,000 similar lawsuits across the United States. Last August, it was a California jury that awarded Dewayne Johnson $289 million for his case of terminal cancer. Johnson settled with Monsanto, now owned by German pharmaceutical Bayer, for $78 million.

 

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