County Sprayed Controversial Herbicide Known as “Roundup” in Northeast Pasadena

Published : Friday, March 8, 2019 | 6:54 AM

A Los Angeles County official confirmed Thursday that the County’s Public Works Dept. has sprayed a controversial herbicide commonly known as Roundup in parts of Northeast Pasadena, and District 4 Councilmember Gene Masuda is less than pleased.

“Roundup is very dangerous,” Masuda said. “I put it in the same category as poison, as DDT.”

L.A. County of Public Works spokesman Kerjon Lee confirmed reports that spraying with the herbicide was done at a heliport in the Sierra Madre Debris Basin near Eaton Canyon.

The County’s usage of Roundup, Lee said, is “limited and tightly controlled.”

It is County policy that before a site may be sprayed it is reviewed by an agricultural commissioner, biologist or licensed pest control advisor, said Lee.

Spraying is done under state-certified supervisors and the lowest most effective application rate is employed. Winds in excess of 5 mph and forecasts of rain within 24 hours result in a rescheduling. A site that has been sprayed is monitored afterward for potential public exposure, he explained.

In an email to Masuda, County Public Works senior civil engineer Hu Yi cited the unique nature of the location which was sprayed, “because the crest of the hillside serves as a heliport with the capacity to hold two helicopters at a time.”

As such, Yi went onto explain, County fire department guidelines require the area be cleared of obstructions and herbicides are a cost-effective way of getting the job done.

Roundup is the commercial name under which Monsanto, now merged with Bayer AG, has marketed the herbicide glyphosate. Glyphosate is either banned or restricted in 13 states, including California,

The spraying occurred within the boundaries of the City of Pasadena and more particularly, Councilmember Gene Masuda’s District 4.

He had not, Matsuda said in a March 7 interview, contacted the County Public Works Department about the matter.

“I don’t even know what their policy is, but we have no jurisdiction over what the County does,” he said.

The Councilmember said he had not heard from constituents regarding the spraying, but that he was not pleased with the news.

Masuda is not alone in his assessment of Roundup.

The City of Pasadena stopped using it in 2017, according to spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. In lieu of Roundup Pasadena uses Scythe, described by Derderian as “an organic product composed of fatty acids that kills the leaves of plants it is applied to.”

The second is Tribune, a name brand, with the active ingredient Diquat.

In 2015, no less than the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), released an opinion classifying glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

The bottom line is, however murky its reputation and future, that Roundup is legal at both the state and federal level.

In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s assessment was that glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans at doses relevant for human health risk assessment.”

The federal agency’s website states that, “Glyphosate products can be safely used by following label directions.” It further asserts that it has a “low toxicity for humans and almost none to fish, aquatic invertebrates and honeybees.”

Both assessments have been criticized, the IARC work for its “precautionary” approach, and the EPA for its light consideration of workplace exposures in its methodology, to provide a pair of examples.

But after the IARC assessment, the horse was out of the barn and the courts began filling up with lawsuits against Monsanto-Bayer.

One judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California reportedly has 680 Roundup-related cases pending on his docket. According to Reuter’s news service, there are an estimated 9,300 such lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country.

In Aug. 2018, a California jury awarded a Solano County groundskeeper $289 million award against Monsanto who claimed his Non Hodgkins Lymphoma was caused by his exposure to Roundup.

The State Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has directed that glyphosate be listed under Proposition 65. But that is a right-to-know measure about hazardous substances and does not restrict the use or sale of anything on the list.

The status of that listing is also being challenged in state court by Monsanto-Bayer with a number of agricultural and grower organizations in support. Monsanto has argued that the OEHHA based its decision on the opinion of IARC, a foreign entity, in violation of sovereignty laws.

The argument did not prevail and Monsanto is appealing the ruling, but for now, glyphosate stays on the list and on sale.