Roundup weed killer is back in the headlines after a jury in Oakland ordered Monsanto to pay nearly $2 billion to a couple that said the weed killer caused their cancers.
KSBY asked cities in San Luis Obispo County if they use the product locally.
Each city says there are a lot of factors that contribute to when, where and how Roundup is used.
Public works directors say it isn’t applied on days when there is a potential for rain and wind.
They usually apply it on sunny days so the product can dry quickly.
However, parents and pet owners still express concerns.
When he owned farmland, John Avila says Roundup changed everything.
“Without Roundup ready on the crops, we wouldn’t be able to farm, the weeds would overgrow,” Avila said.
He says for every gallon of Roundup, he used 100 gallons of water and had to be extra careful when spraying it.
“We had to go to a class and take a test which was very hard and if you passed then they gave you the permit,” Avila said. “For me to put it on I wore a mask, had to have white coveralls, boots and gloves.”
However, he doesn’t agree with cities using them in public places like parks.
“I don’t think they should use it because it’s the public that go there,” Avila said.
The Grover Beach city manager says the city follows federal and state protocol when it comes to using herbicides and it’s mostly used on sidewalks and pathways on a monthly basis.
“They are not used in the middle of the field in a park facility,” said Matthew Bronson, Grover Beach City Manager. “They are used selectively and in a targeted manner.”
Recent lawsuits claiming Roundup caused cancer are concerning to local caregivers who let kids run around the park.
“I want [my nephew] to be safe and anything would be better than using Roundup,” said Janelle Chickering, Grover Beach resident.
Local leaders argue they’re taking careful steps to keep everyone safe.
“They are sprayed early in the morning for the most part, before our parks and walkways are heavily used,” Bronson said.
He added that all the workers using the product are trained and wear protective clothing.
People familiar with the product say it can be problematic when used incorrectly.
“[Anyone] can go down to the hardware store and they can buy the Roundup and it’s on the label what they should do, but they don’t do it,” Avila said. “Now that’s where the hazard comes in.”
Grover Beach is not the only city applying Roundup.
Paso Robles, Atascadero, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, among others also use the herbicide, but a lot of those cities say they are looking at alternatives and reducing the amount being used.
Most cities also say they use some sort of diluted version.
Monsanto released a statement to KSBY saying in part, “There is no evidence that local municipalities who choose to move away from glyphosate for amenity weed management are enhancing safety.”
Glyphosate is an ingredient in Roundup.
The company reiterated its past statements saying there are no risks to public health when the herbicide is used properly.