Glyphosate use on London Fields is safe - Public Health Engalnd

Following concerns about Hackney Council's use of Glyphosate-based product RoundUp to treat weeds in London Fields, we asked the opinion of Public Health England. Here is its response:

"The use of pesticides is governed by a robust approval system to protect the safety of people, animals and the wider environment. 

“Glyphosate based herbicides are widely used in the UK and are approved by the Health and Safety Executive for use by both household and professional gardeners to control plant growth. When used in accordance with the guidelines for their use Glyphosate herbicides are very unlikely to present a risk to the health of the users of the herbicide or those in the vicinity of the areas being treated.

“Given the description of the use of the Glyphosate herbicides in London Fields, Public Health England would not expect there to be any impact on the health of the local population such as nearby residents and users of the parks. Glyphosate is of relatively low toxicity to humans and any potential exposure to the substance would be very small. 

“It is the opinion of PHE that the public, including sensitive groups such as pregnant women and young children, can continue to enjoy London Fields without concern for their health due to the use of Glyphosate herbicides."

Public Health England

Technical briefing:

Glyphosate disrupts the synthesis of aromatic amino acids by plants1. There is no equivalent process in animal life and therefore Glyphosate is considered to be of relatively low toxicity to human life1, 2.

Once applied to plants Glyphosate binds to soil and is absorbed by the plant3. The substance is unlikely to cause any effect to human health from contact with a plant that had been sprayed.

Accidental inhalation of Glyphosate spray mist would only be expected to cause oral or nasal discomfort, and swallowed mist may only cause an unpleasant taste in the mouth and tingling in the throat2.

Evidence from medical literature indicates that exposure to a large quantity of a Glyphosate-based herbicide is required before significant adverse health effects are shown. Generally it is reported that adverse symptoms shown following exposure are due to surfactants present in the solution rather than the active ingredient Glyphosate2.


1) World Health Organisation, WHO/FAO data sheets on pesticides, No. 91, Glyphosate, Available online from: [accessed 03/06/14]

2) National Poisons Information Service, TOXBASE, Glyphosate database entry, Available online (Registered Medical Professionals only) from: [accessed 03/06/14]

3) The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Data bank of environmental properties of chemicals, Glyphosate database entry, Available online from: [accessed 03/06/14]