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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
Marie Sharp

Call for East Lothian Council to stop using 'toxic' weedkiller near playgrounds

Calls for East Lothian Council to stop using weedkiller which has been banned in some countries have been made by the Scottish Greens.

The party's East Lothian branch said the local authority has confirmed it is using a spray which contains glyphosate, which can be toxic to bees, fish and birds,to tackle weeds across the county.

And they point to a 'safety sheet' from manufacturers which they said warns it can be an irritant to some animals and should be kept away from drains, sewers and waterways.

READ MORE: Controversial weedkiller can be used in Midlothian - two years after council banned it

Despite these warnings, the group says residents of Musselburgh, North Berwick, Haddington and Dunbar have reported seeing the after-effects of the chemical on verges. Pictures show evidence of the use of pesticides near play parks, water courses and seafronts around the county.

Mark James, Green candidate for Dunbar & East Linton, first proposed alternatives to chemical use on the council estate in 2017 in an email to council officials, but was told that while products remained licensed in the UK, alternatives would not be considered and “were not viable.”

However, a range of councils have now adopted alternative methods to weed control. And the groups now says it is time for East Lothian Council to rethink their policy.

Mark said: "This is the same chemical that in the United States has resulted in lawsuits that the owners have set aside more than $10billion to settle - some brought after people exposed to the product developed cancer.

"Scotland should be banning the use of these chemicals, not seeing them used by our own councils. East Lothian Council must immediately suspend all but emergency ground works until it has carried out a full audit of the chemicals supplied to its workers - or used by its contractors.”

A spokesperson for the local authority said it received regular updates from the Amenity Forum which leads advice on safe and environmentally friendly use of pesticides and added extensive tests and research has seen glyphosate ruled safe to use.

They said: "The Amenity Forum have stated that the chemical is ‘able to be used without unacceptable risks to people or the environment’. Should this position change East Lothian Council could explore alternative solutions to meet our operational needs.

"In addition, management staff within the council’s grounds maintenance team take an active role in a number of advisory groups to share best practice, monitor new developments in delivery and prepare for any changes in legislation that may impact on service delivery.

"Wherever viable and efficient opportunities exist to reduce our reliance on chemicals we have adopted alternative working practices to utilise these and contribute to the overall aims and objectives of the Council’s Climate Change Strategy.

"We also consider carefully any evidence to suggest that working practices could have a detrimental effect on the health of our communities and wildlife.

"To this end the range of chemicals utilised by the council for, in particular, weed control has been significantly reduced and we use glyphosate based products only where mulching or manual control is not possible."

The East Lothian Greens manifesto contains a clear and unequivocal, immediate, ban on herbicide and pesticide use and candidates have urged other political parties to support the end to using these chemicals.

Nick Mole from the Pesticide Action Network UK, said work was being carried out across the country to tackle weeds without the use of potentially toxic products.

He said: "Stirling and Edinburgh are already taking steps to reduce and eliminate the use of pesticides with effective, sustainable, non-toxic alternatives.

"At a time when we need our open spaces to be healthy and safe for people and biodiversity there really is no excuse for continuing the use of pesticides.”

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