Parks are New Yorkers’ oasis. They’re where we escape the crowds, the din of traffic, and our often tiny apartments; where we play with our children, walk our pets, and relax in the sun. Parks should be a place where New Yorkers can relax and play without being exposed to dangerous chemicals. So why is a herbicide believed to cause cancer being sprayed in our parks?
The New York City parks department is a prolific user of Roundup, a popular weedkiller sold by Monsanto. Yet research by the World Health Organization has linked the active chemical in Roundup, glyphosate, to cancer – a finding buttressed by several major civil suits recently brought against Monsanto.
You may not hear about the dangers of Roundup from the Trump administration or the various agencies that are supposed to protect the American public from dangerous toxins. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that there is no risk to public health from glyphosate if it is used in accordance with label instructions. The EPA even went a step further, adding that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.
The problem with this assertion by the EPA – now helmed by a former coal industry lobbyist – is that the evidence Roundup may be unsafe is rapidly mounting. Three recent lawsuits brought against Bayer, Monsanto’s parent company, have resulted in the company paying nearly $3bn to people who have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after years of using Roundup.
The EPA, ostensibly tasked with “reducing environmental risks based on the best available scientific information”, is at odds with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization. The IARC identified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen” in 2015, leading to the chemical being banned in some cities in the United States and many countries around the world.
New York City has 1,700 parks spanning 30,000 acres, most of which are dedicated for public use and the enjoyment of residents, tourists and most importantly children. There are currently no restrictions on the use of glyphosate, and according to the city government’s own data, the Department of Parks & Recreation continues to generously deploy Roundup. In 2017, city workers sprayed over 500 gallons of glyphosate, including in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which receives 8 million visitors a year. And we don’t even know how much glyphosate is used in parks like Central Park, which are managed by private conservancies that haven’t shared the data.