State, county officials review Roundup use

Hawaii County business owners, landscapers, farmers, homeowners and county workers are applying too much Roundup, a soil and water conservationist told senators Friday.

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Hawaii County business owners, landscapers, farmers, homeowners and county workers are applying too much Roundup, a soil and water conservationist told senators Friday.

“I see a lot of residential properties in Kona, not one single blade of grass, continually spraying Roundup,” Kona Soil and Water Conservation District Director Jeff Knowles said. “Businesses, too. In my opinion, I believe Roundup has the (potential) to build up in these areas.”

Knowles pointed to county employees who spray Roundup from trucks without wearing proper protective gear. The herbicide-laced water is drifting into homes, he said, onto vehicles and into areas where children are playing. Last year, Knowles was even misted by Roundup spray from a county weed-control team, while riding his motorcycle on Ane Keohokalole Highway. He said in his three decades of working as a federal conservationist around the world, he was never sprayed with the herbicide.

The problem here, he said, is that most people believe Roundup, which is the trademarked name for glyphosate, is safe.

Furthermore, he said, people are putting too much glyphosate in the water being used in the sprayers. Properly mixed, weeds should die two to three days after being sprayed, Knowles said. He’s seeing weeds in Kona beginning to die off within 24 hours. His concern, he added, is that people are walking past these sprayed areas with no warning signs or notification about what chemicals might be there.

Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, called the informational briefing, along with Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, based on concerns being raised across the state about the possible health impacts of glyphosate. Green said a West Hawaii resident sent him pictures of maintenance crews spraying herbicides alongside a highway in South Kona, with a long line of vehicles waiting behind them.

Ruderman cited some recent studies, including some by an MIT professor, that finds a possible link between the increase in autism rates with the increasing use of glyphosate.

“It’s been largely used because of its reputation for safety,” Ruderman said, adding science is now showing it may not be that safe.

Nutrition researcher Andrea Rosanoff, director of research and science information officer with the Center for Magnesium Education and Research, said a number of the assumptions long held about glyphosate are now being questioned. Two countries, El Salvador and Sri Lanka, where glyphosate has been heavily used, have recently banned it, Rosanoff said, because of concerns about negative health impacts.

Still, she added, more research is needed.

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Green, at the end of the hearing, said he planned to convene similar meetings on other health topics.

“It’s important, where we have large public health questions and large environmental health practices, that we explore all the different possibilities,” he said.

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