Some residents concerned about Madison's use of pesticides

MADISON — Madison officials are turning to chemicals to get rid of weeds but some environmentalists say the city's use of them has gotten out of hand.

The Capital Times reports that city reports show an increase of two controversial herbicide weed killers, glyphosate and 2,4-D.

The city began a major effort to remove invasive plants from parks in 2014, said Charlie Romines, the city's assistant parks superintendent. The chemicals have been used on parks, playing fields, playgrounds, golf courses and sandboxes to prevent weeds from spreading.

The city created a Pesticide Management Advisory Committee in 2003 to write the city's pesticide policy and review the city's use of pesticides. The policy aims to eliminate or reduce pesticide use as much as possible. The city's reports on pesticides also list herbicide use.

The committee was disbanded in 2013 after Dane County health officials said it was too difficult to fill vacancies, but that the chemicals would still be monitored.

John Hausbeck is the environmental health supervisor for Madison and Dane County. He said the last few years of pesticide reports haven't been reviewed.

The debate over the safety of the chemicals has increased after a World Health Organization research arm said they could cause cancer.

Claire Gervais is a family physician and a former member of the city's Pesticide Management Advisory Committee.

"There are many studies showing certain risks," Gervais said. "It's just, how do you assess that risk? A lot of these risks are cumulative. Cancer doesn't happen overnight, and it's hard to figure out what caused that cancer."