South Pas Still Using Controversial Herbicide

Mayor Marina Khubesrian (left) says the city will further explore its use of “Roundup.” Supervisor Kathryn Barger has called for a ban in the county pending more review. File Photos

In 2017, Burbank school officials announced they would no longer use the controversial herbicide “Roundup,” noting widespread fears it was linked to cancer. The Burbank City Council followed that move by ending use of the product in city parks and public-gathering areas for one year.

South Pasadena, however, still uses the herbicide “on a limited scale” the Review has learned.

“The city primarily uses Roundup (glyphosates based herbicide) brand on a limited scale for weed control maintenance at medians, planters and hardscape cracks in compliance with L.A. County Agricultural Commission (LACAC) guidelines,’’ Shahid Abbas, the city’s parks and public works director, said in an email statement, in response to a Review inquiry.

“Furthermore, to avoid over sprays and scatter, the city uses a qualified licensed applicator for application of this product.

“The city also continues to explore other possible alternatives to glyphosates based products, and method of weed controls.”

Asked specifically about whether the herbicide is used in any capacity in city parks, Lucy Demirjian, assistant to the city manager, said, “Roundup is not applied to the turf.”

In an interview with the Review, Mayor Marina Khubesrian noted the council looked at the issue a few years ago and instructed staff to look at the city’s use of it and possible alternatives.

She noted that the school district uses Roundup in “very, very limited places to kill weeds where otherwise the cost of doing that would be a lot more or we would have to get another chemical pesticide that they would have to use a lot more of to get the same effect as Roundup.”

A broad scientific analysis of glyphosate by five U.S. scientists released in February found that people with high exposures to the herbicide have a 41 percent increased risk of developing a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Khubesrian called the findings of the study “significant,” and said the city was again looking into its use.

In response to the study, Los Angeles County issued a moratorium in March on the application of Roundup, noting a need for more research into potential environmental and health effects. L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger recommended the ban, as reported by KNBC-TV

“I am asking county departments to stop the use of this herbicide until public health and environmental professionals can determine if it’s safe for further use in L.A. County and explore alternative methods for vegetation management,” Barger said.

Khubesrian also noted that the National Resources Environmental (NRE) Commission is looking into proprieties regarding glyphosate — including a total ban, and that the city will be looking into the considerations more thoroughly in the next few months.

“That’s kind of the debate now that as a city, do we want to move forward with a complete glyphosate ban or do we want to consider that there might be some locations where people aren’t exposed to certain areas like medians, where there’s not direct exposure to humans, whether that is an area that might make sense?” Khubesrian said.

In August 2018, a California civil-court jury found that Roundup was responsible for a San Francisco-area school groundskeeper’s terminal cancer, as reported by Pasadena Weekly. While working at a school district near San Francisco, Dewayne Johnson was spraying the herbicide 20 to 30 times a year, the report said.

A judge in 2017 had ruled that the herbicide glyphosate could be classified as a cancer risk under the state’s Proposition 65 list of known carcinogens, as reported by the Burbank Leader.

That same year, Burbank Unified School District officials announced they would no longer use Roundup, and the council did similarly.

The herbicide was originally produced by Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2018.

Previously, Burbank school officials had used Roundup on weeds along asphalt cracks, fence lines and shrubs, according to Rick Nolette, chief facilities and information technology officer for Burbank Unified. In 2017, school officials started to consider other options, Nolette said, and began using an organic weed killer called Avenger.

During a Burbank City Council meeting in March 2017, numerous Burbank residents and parents shared concerns on the city’s usage of Roundup.

“I personally feel that it would be reckless to continue using Roundup when there are now so many viable, cost-effective, organic alternatives that don’t carry the same public-health concerns,” resident Leigh Ann Kato told the council during public comment.

“It is true that not all Proposition 65 chemicals carry such great risk, but I would ask you to keep in mind, in this instance, children, adults and pets do not have a choice about their exposure to this toxin. That should never be the case in a cancer-causing agent.”