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​​​​​​​Pesticides Sprayed on Parks and Public Spaces: A Toxic Brew

on Fri, 10/01/2021 - 4:33pm

The City of St. Louis has released records of herbicides used on parks and public spaces in response to a Sunshine Law request filed in July by the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center on behalf of the St. Louis No Spray Coalition. The records reveal a toxic brew of chemicals used for weed control in the City during 2016-18, including: 850 gallons of Roundup Pro Concentrate, a compound which which has been determined to cause cancer (Park officials we spoke to by phone previously denied they use Roundup or claimed they used it "sparingly"); 180 lbs of Treflan, a pre-emergent herbicide whose active ingredient (Trifluralin) is listed as "possible carcinogen" by the EPA and has been shown by sources to be highly persistent and toxic to aquatic organisms; Sedgehammer and Prosedge, selective herbicides used to control sedge; 335 gallons of Resolute. an herbicide whose active ingredient (prodiamine) was listed as a "possible carcinogen" by the EPA in 2002 according to the Fluoride Action Network, presents an inhalation hazard and is highly persistent and very toxic to aquatic life

That's three "probable/possible carcinogens" that the City regularly sprays in its parks!

Most notable is the records the City did not release, continuing a pattern of apparent non-compliance with and obfuscation of Sunshine Law requests :

-Despite the fact that both this Sunshine Law request and a previous one filed by the No Spray Coalition asked for “Records of pesticide (including but not limited to herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides) use by the City,” only invoices/purchase orders for herbicides were released. This is a convenient misunderstanding of what a pesticide is! We know that the Parks Dept. uses insecticides because, in answer to the earlier Sunshine Law request, they released a copy of a service request for an insecticide used for mosquito control.

-Nine of the ten documents were from 2016-18, while only one is dated after that: dated Oct. 21, 2020, an invoice for Lesco Prosecutor Pro, an herbicide. It seems HIGHLY unlikely that this was the only herbicide the Parks Dept. bought after 2018. The earlier documents show the City spending approximately $14K-$24K per year during 2016-18.

-Our request asked for records referencing how much pesticide spray is used by the City in specific parks within the City. NOTHING in the released documents matches that request.

These failures to produce responsive documents suggest that the City is withholding records in defiance of the Sunshine Law and our specific requests. They have failed to release any records disclosing which pesticides and how much the city used in each park. This last point is particularly important for the public to know: in 2020, The Black Institute (a respected think-tank) released “Poison Parks”, a paper that showed that New York City Parks in neighborhoods where a majority of the residents were poor and people of color were sprayed with toxic chemicals at a disproportionately higher rate, putting this demographic at a greater risk for asthma, cancer and other illnesses. Could this type of environmental racism be happening in St. Louis? The City of St. Louis must do full disclosure and comply with the law by releasing all the documents requested under the Sunshine Law.

It is also time for the City of St. Louis to protect its citizens from chemical sprays by joining the 130+ other North American cities by passing a No Spray ordinance that bans the use of pesticides sprayed on public and private spaces.

St. Louis No Spray Coalition


Phone: 314-771-8576 or 314-727-8554


facebook: March Against Monsanto St. Louis

Twitter: @MAM_STL