Cal Anderson Park is pesticide-free! Barb DeCaro from Seattle Parks and Recreation delivered that surprise piece of good news during a tour of the park Tuesday with representatives from the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, Seattle Audubon, Earthcorps, SalmonSafe, and the Cal Anderson Park Alliance.
The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Steering Committee has been concerned about pesticide use in Cal Anderson since the Seattle Times ran a story last July on Seattle Parks’ wide use of pesticides, including glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular product Roundup.
Why the concern?
Glyphosate was tagged as a “probable carcinogen” in early 2015 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Since the classification, activists in some cities, including Portland, Oregon, have been asking for a ban on glyphosate use in public parks.
Capitol Hill EcoDistrict staff and allies have been seeking more information about glyphosate use in Seattle Parks and were gearing up for a fight to get pesticides out of Cal Anderson Park and spark a conversation about getting glyphosates out of all Seattle Parks.
And then we found out on Tuesday that we are lucky among neighborhoods in Seattle. According to DeCaro, Cal Anderson Park doesn’t get sprayed with pesticides as part of an agreement with Seattle Public Utilities to protect the water quality of Lincoln Reservoir that lies below the northern half of the park.
But what is going on in other nearby parks, including Volunteer Park? Are we and our pets protected from exposure to a probable carcinogen?
According to the Times article, the answer is no. Glyphosate was sprayed in Volunteer Park as recently as 2016, as well as Alder Creek Park, Washington Park, Thomas C. Wales Park, and many others.
“In 2016, Parks and Recreation conducted 732 pesticide treatments in parks that were either developed or in active restoration. More than 60 percent of these applications included glyphosate,” according to the Times. The heaviest use of pesticides is on Seattle’s golf courses.
And glyphosate is probably in other green spaces nearby. Megan Dunn, from the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, was in town for Tuesday’s tour. She pointed out that even if glyphosates are not in Cal Anderson Park, they are definitely used heavily in nearby private yards and public rights of way. Dunn points to the growing evidence against glyphosate use on both public and private land, but the substance is still widely used. And it is finding its way into our bodies.
“This chemical is in our food, water, air, and has been found in breast milk and urine. The manufacturing, distribution and sale of glyphosate is a multi-billion-dollar industry,” Dunn writes on the NCAP blog.
Monsanto, the makers of RoundUp and other pesticide products containing glyphosate, claims there is no evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic. They are currently defending this position in California and Missouri courts.
In the meantime, RoundUp continues to fly off the shelves of local home improvement stores and Seattle Parks has expressed no intent to stop applying glyphosate in many neighborhood parks. If you don’t want yourselves or your pets exposed, come over to Cal Anderson Park!