Most of the spraying done by Newcastle City Council (NCC) is to kill weeds and other vegetation. They mainly use glyphosate based herbicides such as Roundup Pro. There is abundant scientific evidence that these herbicides are potentially harmful. They have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, birth defects and kidney damage. The 2015 IARC report for the WHO said there is strong evidence that they are genotoxic.

The term “pesticide” is used here as a collective noun which includes herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. We are calling for the council to stop using all pesticides with a few possible exceptions such as treating Japanese Knotweed.

Our campaign is part of a national campaign being coordinated by the charity Pesticide Action Network UK.

In the UK a number of local authorities have changed to using safe methods of weed control. These include Hammersmith and Fulham, Lewes and Glastonbury.

Many European countries have a partial or complete ban on the use of pesticides in public areas. These include France, Denmark, Holland and Germany.

In 2017 the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to ban the use of glyphosate herbicides in public spaces - and to ban their use entirely by 2022. Sadly they were overruled by the unelected European Commission. The UK voted to renew glyphosate’s licence while France opposed it.

The relevant European regulatory agencies for these products are the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and the European Chemical Agency (ECHA). Both of these bodies have recently ruled that glyphosate herbicides are safe. Many expert scientists disagree with this opinion. They accuse the agencies of being too close to the manufacturers of pesticide products. They also accuse the EFSA and ECHA of cherry picking their evidence and ignoring studies unfavourable to glyphosate.

The UK local authorities that have gone pesticide free use hot foam instead of chemical spray. The product is called Foamstream and is manufactured by a company called Weedingtech. Foamstream works by hot water killing the plant, the foam helps maintain the temperature of the water. Other safe methods of weed control include brush machines (Nilfisk is one make), strimming and mulches.

The changeover to safe weed control methods requires informing the public of why pesticides are no longer to be used and explaining that more weeds does not mean less safety. Their increased abundance will benefit nature. From my own experience I am sure that this will not be difficult.