Fresno Unified will consider a ban on Roundup, citing cancer risks to staff and students

Bullard High students complete a beautification project on campus on Monday March 26/
Bullard High students complete a beautification project on campus on Monday March 26/

Fresno Unified will consider alternatives to the weed-killer Roundup, after hearing from concerned parents and employees about its impact on long-term health.

The district board of trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to “investigate the use of alternative weed control products and methods,” that do not contain the chemical glyphosate, commonly found in Roundup.

A jury found in an August 2018 that Roundup knew its product was a health risk and failed to warn consumers, in the first case alleging a link between glyphosate and cancer to go to trial.

Nayamin Martinez, Director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said her group collected over 100 signatures from parents worried about the use of Roundup near playgrounds and on athletic fields.

“Children are at a greater risk because they are developing so rapidly,” she said. “The good news is, there are proven, cost-effective and safe options that are not carcinogenic.”

Martinez said her group wanted the board to adopt a resolution banning the chemical outright, citing the case of a custodian who developed cancer after prolonged exposure to glyphosate-based pesticides.

Trustee Genoveva Islas, speaking at her first meeting as a newly-elected Fresno Unified board member, pushed the board to adopt more forceful language in the resolution, and said the chemical’s status as a carinogen was already known.

But Chief Operations Officer Karin Temple, whose office brought the resolution, cautioned the board that alternative products may have other impacts, like how a school looks to the public.

“Organic products are available, but they do have ancillary impacts that we have not fully evaluated,” Temple said. “If a product is less effective, then we may have other cost impacts. For example, would it take more labor?”

Temple said it was her responsibility to manage the board’s expectations in terms of the job the landscaping staff is expected to do. Her office does not plan to buy any more Roundup until the study is completed, which is expected to be by the 2019-20 school year.

“The risk of having cancer-causing ingredients on campus versus another alternative that may not be as good at eradicating weeds, I still like the alternative,” Trustee Carol Mills said. “People in their homes have stopped using this product; I’m sure we can find an alternative that works.”