East Lothian Council must immediately halt use of toxic spray

East Lothian Council has been using a toxic spray on paths and verges which is banned in some European countries and US states, an investigation by the East Lothian branch of the Scottish Green Party has revealed.

Council officials have confirmed that council workers have been using Roundup ProVantage at sites across the county. The spray contains glyphosate, which can kill birds, bees, worms and fish.

The “safety sheet” provided to the Council by the manufacturer, Monsanto, admits the chemical shows toxicity to bees and acute toxicity towards fish and birds. It was also found to be an irritant to some animals with symptoms taking up to 5 days to clear.

Furthermore, council workers are warned not to let the chemical contaminate drains, sewers and water ways. The product information sheet even states it may react with some forms of steel to produce hydrogen, a highly flammable gas that could explode. 

Despite these warnings, residents of Musselburgh, North Berwick, Haddington and Dunbar have reported seeing the aftereffects 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 adopted alternative methods to weed control. From Shetland to Lewes, local authorities across the UK have been introducing unilateral bans on the use of glyphosate.

Mark commented:

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.

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.

Shona McIntosh, Scottish Greens candidate for Musselburgh, commented:

We are in a climate and biodiversity crisis and the Council is happily spraying pesticides that kill our wildlife and could cause untold harm to our already fragile ecosystems.

The only way for the Council to take note is for a genuinely radical change in the political make-up of our councillors this May.

Jacq Cottrell, North Berwick Coastal Greens candidate, said:

Many residents will also be alarmed that the Council is buying products from Monsanto, which has faced criticism from its work with GMOs as well as a plethora of human rights and environmental violations.

Nick Mole from the Pesticide Action Network UK, commented:

Around the world there are hundreds of examples of towns and cities managing their streets, pavements, playgrounds and parks without the use of potentially toxic pesticides such as glyphosate. 

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.

Marnie Stirling, Green candidate for Tranent, Wallyford & Macmerry, added:

I've never understood the need to kill edges of path ways. They can use an edging tool or spade to cut the grass out if they want it like that. It could even be part of community payback schemes.

For more information about the East Lothian Greens Local Election campaign, please visit