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Pesticide use – the issue

Pesticides are potent chemicals designed to kill a wide range of insect pests, plants, fungi and other living organisms.

Much attention has been given to the huge quantities of chemicals used in agriculture. However, hundreds of tonnes of pesticides are also used in UK towns and cities, exposing millions of people to potentially harmful chemicals on a daily basis – often without their knowledge.

Pesticides are often used in highly populated areas, often frequented by children. Parks, pavements, playgrounds and even school playgrounds are routinely sprayed with chemicals, mainly for cosmetic purposes.

The reliance on pesticides to keep urban weeds at bay is creating extremely concerning consequences for human health, wildlife and the environment.

Of the 15 pesticides most-widely used in urban areas, 13 have been classed as ‘possible’, ‘probable’ or ‘proven’ carcinogens. Many have been linked a range of other illnesses, from neurological diseases to birth defects.

Chemical treatments can also have significant detrimental impacts on wildlife and biodiversity. Pesticides can impact the survival and reproduction of plant and animal species – disrupting the planet’s fragile ecosystems, destroying urban diversity, and causing huge problems for pollinators.

Pesticide run-off regularly contaminates our water supplies, harming fish and other aquatic biota, and endangering human health through the direct consumption of pesticide-contaminated water.

What’s more, UK water companies spend around £30m each year removing pesticides from drinking water – a cost borne by citizens via our water bills.

Read more about the impacts of pesticide use