SURREY — Neighbours of Newton’s Hyland Park were shocked this week to find that the City of Surrey is spraying invasive plants with a herbicide that the World Health Organization found in 2015 to be “probably carcinogenic in humans.”
Ken Borrie (pictured), a retired Surrey teacher, was enjoying the park behind his home on Monday when he came across a warning sign that Surrey Parks would be using glyphosate from July 11-13 to kill an invasive species called lamium, a trailing plant often presented in hanging baskets.
The sign advises people to “avoid contact with targeted vegetation for a minimum of 24 hours after application.”
“Yes it’s invasive and a nuisance but easy to rip out by hand,” Borrie said. “We would be happy to volunteer – no need for chemical warfare.”
Borrie noted there are salmon-bearing streams in the park and Henry Bose Creek and Reedville Creek flow into Hyland Creek.
“I am amazed that the city is allowed to spray when the runoff has to go in these DFO streams,” he said.
Borrie’s wife Anne told the Now, “We are all shocked to see this. Certainly we don’t want it sprayed anywhere near us.”
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Neal Aven, Surrey’s manager of urban forestry and environmental programs, noted that in 2016 the WHO did a follow-up study with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization that “clarifies” health issues concerning glyphosate, which is a key ingredient in Roundup, a weedkiller produced by Monsanto.
This latest study concluded the chemical is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.” It did, however, find “some evidence of a positive association between glyphosate exposure and risk of NHL,” or non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found in March 2015 that “For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada and Sweden published since 2001.”
The 2015 report also noted that glyphosate “currently has the highest global production volume of all herbicides” and its use “has increased sharply.”
“Glyphosate has been detected in the air during spraying, in water, and in food,” the researchers found. “The general population is exposed primarily through residence near sprayed areas, home use, and diet, and the level that has been observed is generally low.”
In July 2015 Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency found that “based on available scientific information, products containing glyphosate do not present unacceptable risks to human health or the environment when used according to the proposed label directions.”
Surrey’s Pesticide Use Control Bylaw says pesticides may be used for “controlling or destroying a noxious weed.” Aven noted glyphosate is federally regulated and approved through the Pest Control Products Act and is approved for use on lamium, which smothers native plants.
“Glyphosate is one of the tools in our tool kit,” Aven said. “We follow all the labels and all the federal and provincial regulations.
“We go off of Health Canada,” he said. “The city is currently controlling lamium through both manual removal and herbicide application in hundreds of locations in our natural areas.”
Aven said the spraying is “very targeted” and is typically applied by squirting the chemical onto a plant from a small backpack. “As per provincial regulations,” he said, “spraying is not carried out within ten metres of water’s edge.”
That’s cold comfort for Borrie, with Hyland Park “just over the fence.”