A study set to be released Wednesday reveals that minorities and lower-income families are disproportionately exposed to hazardous chemicals at their local parks in New York City.
Roundup pesticide containing glyphosate, a chemical that’s been linked to cancer, is used in urban parks at a higher rate than other green spaces, according to a new report from the Black Institute, which is demanding a ban on the chemical.
Of 50 Manhattan parks treated with Roundup in 2018, 42 were in Harlem, the think tank stated, citing Parks Department data.
Parks employees also treated Idlewild Park, located in a predominantly African-American Queens neighborhood, with Roundup that contained concentrations of glyphosate that were up to 100 times higher than “normal” levels.
“The public parks and zoos and playgrounds that low- and moderate-income people use — and especially people of color — they’re killing us,” Black Institute President Bertha Lewis told the Daily News.
The Roundup data was obtained from the Parks Department through a Freedom of Information Law.
“Any concentration is unacceptable, but the pure disregard for the lives that could be affected by this chemical is astounding,” the report states. “Imagine spraying Agent Orange all over your child’s neighborhood rec center.”
The Black Institute says the report shows a pattern of “environmental racism.”
“We understand the movement about climate and pollution going on,” Lewis said. “Too many times, the effect on black people and brown people and people of color is an afterthought.”
Park visitors aren’t the only people at risk of exposure. Those who work with Roundup are also in danger, according to the report, and many of them are people of color.
“This exposure uniquely affects people of color working for NYC,” the report states, noting black and Latino people constituted 64 percent of all NYC Parks Department employees in 2017, and 96 percent of the agency’s building services workers.
The Parks Department noted that only gardeners handle glyphosate, and 112 members of that 203-person staff are black or Latino. The department also insisted it’s been boosting safety for New Yorkers.
Bayer, which recently acquired Monsanto, the company that makes Roundup, insists that glyphosate is safe. Nevertheless, the company has paid out millions of dollars to people who blamed their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on the pesticide.
“There is no evidence that municipalities moving away from glyphosate for vegetation management, including invasive and noxious weed control, are enhancing safety, given there is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides,” Bayer said in a statement to The News.
The Black Institute has asked the City Council to ban pesticides like Roundup from city parks.