Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Weedkillers and the nanny tendency

I am not, I must confess, particularly practical. Something to do with having paws, I imagine. Which probably explains the trouble I had with the Weedol ‘gun’ I bought at the garden centre yesterday. (Note the inverted commas. This is not a firearm!)

The instructions said “Press down firmly on top of trigger head
immediately behind yellow nozzle to depress safety tab. At the same time, twist nozzle to spray position (1/4 turn either way).”

Those of you who are reading this probably understand exactly what that means. But I was mystified, and in my efforts to use the gun, I managed to get very little weedkiller onto the weeds, but rather a lot all over my paws. And I growled at the geniuses that felt obliged to invent a new type of gun, when the old type worked well. No doubt they thought that it was too easy to get this dangerous substance out of the old type of gun, and that it needed to be changed to protect us.

However, my hard stares yesterday were not just directed toward the manufacturers of Weedol. They also fell upon the EU. For when I was in the garden centre, looking at weedkillers, I saw a notice saying that it would no longer be legal to sell Sodium chlorate after September 30th, 2009. (Which annoyed me, because I had been wanting to buy some.) I did a little research, and discovered that the decision, in fact, was taken by the EU last year, but I had missed the announcement. However, I had suspected that something was up, because I had not seen any for sale for some months.

The reasons, are found here and here, but are essentially as follows (and I quote, to give you a flavour of the prose style):
The information available is insufficient to satisfy the requirements set out in Annex II and Annex III Directive 91/414/EEC in particular with regard to
  • unacceptable exposure to operators
  • the need for further data to establish an AOEL
  • the need for further data to assess the leaching of a relevant metabolite to groundwater.
So Sodium chlorate products are not expected to satisfy Council Directive 91/414/EEC, and hence Sodium chlorate will not be included in Annex I to the said directive, which means that it cannot be sold or used in the EU.

Yes, Sodium chlorate is toxic if ingested - like thousands of other substances. It does tend to leach out of soil, and into groundwater. But these things have been common knowledge for generations, and Sodium chlorate has been used for generations, and I have never heard that there has been a public health problem with it.

So why is it being banned now? It’s pretty obvious. Politicians and officials didn’t get around to banning it before because they didn’t have the time. But now they are finding time. And they will increasingly find time. Time to ban other things that we have taken for granted for years.

1 comment:

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