Families flock to parks and playgrounds as a special place to take children–especially in the summertime. Most parents are careful to prevent injuries from the usual risks like falls from swings or ladders. But there is an invisible risk that can have lasting health impact: many parks, playgrounds, and even schoolyards, have been doused with glyphosate—the herbicide better known as Roundup that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified as probably carcinogenic to humans.
This is all in the quest to control weeds. A generation ago, people pulled unwanted weeds and got exercise while they were at it. Today, we see homeowners, landscaping crews, and grounds workers spraying Roundup everywhere.
Made by Monsanto, it is actually no secret about where Roundup is used. An article in Scientific American quoted Monsanto spokesman, John Combest, as saying, “Roundup has one of the most extensive human health safety and environmental data packages of any pesticide that’s out there. It’s used in public parks, it’s used to protect schools. There’s been a great deal of study on Roundup, and we’re very proud of its performance.”
The problem is, how can you know where Roundup is used? A New York City-based activist performance collective known as Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir has used the Freedom of Information Act to get public records of where Roundup has been sprayed in public areas. They sent 210 FOIA requests to school districts, state, county, and city parks departments across the U.S. They are using this information to compile glyphosate spraying data for areas adjacent to parks, playgrounds, and schoolyards. They have created a U.S. Map of Poisoned Parks and Playgrounds where the toxic spray has been used. You can zoom in on the map to see where FOIA data has reported spraying. From Harlem Lane Playground in Manhattan to Brookhaven Elementary School in Placentia, California there are hundreds of map markers across the country.
Check out this video by Reverend Billy explaining how they gathered the data and what they went through to get it.
Right now there are city-specific maps for New York, Seattle-Tacoma, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Portland. The project is ongoing and your city might be next so that you can consult a map next time you are planning an outing with your children!
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