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Concern over spraying of chemicals close to homes

Complaints of eye and skin irritation from nearby residents

The RVC field south of Brookmans Park and to the west of Bluebridge Road Image courtesy of Nick Lees
The RVC field south of Brookmans Park and to the west of Bluebridge Road
Image courtesy of Nick Lees
On Wednesday 27 May, Nick Lees of The Gardens, Brookmans Park, noticed that the field that backs on to his home was being sprayed.

Soon after, his eyes and skin became irritated. His wife suffered a similar reaction.

He says he was so concerned about what was being sprayed that he contacted the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), which owns the field, to try to find out.

“Shortly after the tractor went by there was a very strong creosote-type smell, my eyes stung and my skin felt itchy to such an extent that I immediately went inside, washed [myself], and shut all the doors and windows.”
The RVC responded, saying that the chemicals used are “subject to risk assessment according to the legal requirement under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH)”.
“The field at Bluebridge was sprayed with a mixture of Leystar 1.0 (herbicide), Maize Boost 2.5 and Equilibrium 2.0 (both micronutrient fertilisers). The choice and combination of these sprays are made on the recommendation and advice of a certified agronomist and all are completely legal.”
The RVC said the manager responsible for the spraying of the Bluebridge Road field took the timing and weather into consideration and confirmed that it took place between 7:30am and 10:30am on the Wednesday morning.

The spokesperson said that at the time the wind speed was 2mph north-easterly and the temperature was as low as possible to minimise any issues with the spraying.
“During my review of this spraying I found nothing untoward that could have affected the health and safety of the residents in The Gardens, Brookmans Park area.”
Mr Lees researched online to find out more about the chemicals mentioned in the RVC’s reply.

Leystar is produced by Corteva, Maize Boost by Yara, and Equilibrium by Bioiberica.

He found that Corteva has published a document setting out the health risks of coming into contact with the chemical. The following graphic is information taken from that document, which is embedded below.

Leystar data sheet

The Corteva site offers advice for anyone who comes into contact with Leystar:
“remove contaminated clothing, rinse the skin immediately for 15-20 minutes, and call a poison control centre or doctor for treatment advice”. 
If there is eye contact, the advice is to ...
“hold eyes open and rinse slowly and gently with water for 15-20 minutes. Remove contact lenses, if present, after the first five minutes, then continue rinsing eyes, and call a poison control centre or doctor for treatment advice”.
Another chemical mentioned by the RVC, Maize Boost, also carries health risks. Yara, the company that makes the product has produced a document setting out the health risks. The following graphic is information taken from that document, which is embedded below.

Maize Boost data sheet

The maker of Equilibrium 2.0 has also produced a data sheet about the product. The following graphic is taken from the document, which is embedded below.

Equilibrium data sheet

Mr Lees wrote to the RVC again asking whether the quantities and concentration of the chemicals could be harmful to health.

The RVC has since responded to Mr Lees saying the chemicals were used safely, and legally, with appropriate control measures in place. Mr Lees has shared the response with North Mymms News.
“We understand that you are concerned about the use of herbicide and the effect this might have on the surrounding area. We would like to reassure you that the use of these products is standard practice and they are used in dilution according to relevant guidelines, mitigating the hazards noted on safety labels for the undiluted product. Indeed, we have been using the products safely since 2010.
“As part of our Environmental Sustainability Strategy, the RVC takes very seriously our commitment to managing our agricultural land responsibly and minimising the impact on biodiversity and local wildlife. This includes our responsible use of agrochemicals.
“As you may be aware, in line with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, our colleagues who are experienced in the safe and effective use of herbicides, have worked alongside external specialists and contractors to assess and minimise any risk to the user, our neighbours, and the environment. The controls put in place for the safe use of these products include, but are not limited to, dilution of the product in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations, handling by trained contractors, spraying equipment tested in line with requirements, secure storage and consideration of the environmental conditions, such as wind speed, wind direction and temperature.
“We understand safety labels on products can raise concerns, but they inform the user of the potential for harm from inappropriate use in undiluted quantities. We can assure you the products are being used safely, and legally, with all the control measures listed above.”
Mr Lees has since contacted the manufacturers of the chemicals used as well as the Environment Agency and Affinity Water, who are responsible for the Warrengate Road water treatment works 1km to the west of the sprayed area. The works takes water from Ray Brook which runs along the north side of the field.

Mr Lees says he is concerned that future spraying on the field could have an impact on their health and that of other residents whose homes border the field.

The public footpath running along the northern boundary of the sprayed field
Image by North Mymms News released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
He’s also written to the RVC asking why local residents weren’t warned about the spraying, and whether the footpath that runs around the northern and western boundaries of the field, North Mymms footpath 11, which is popular with dog walkers, was closed during the spraying.

The RVC says it has been in ongoing conversation with Mr Lees and “further communication is planned to go out shortly in response to further requests for information from him”.
“Mr Lees raised his concerns with us on 29th May 2020 and since then we have been in regular dialogue. We are committed to being a good neighbour and continue to provide further information on our standard practice at the farm as requested by him. We would like to reassure members of our community that the products being used are legal and safe.”

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