BOURNEMOUTH and Poole councils have insisted herbicide glyphosate is safe despite a recent US court ruling.

The landmark case earlier this month saw a US court award $289 million in damages to a former California school groundskeeper who claimed his terminal cancer was caused by the chemical, sold as Roundup.

The herbicide's producer, Monsanto, has denied its product is carcinogenic and says it will appeal the decision.

However, Bournemouth councillor Simon Bull, head of the Independent and Green Group, said the council should stop using the chemical until "absolutely confident that it is safe".

"In Bournemouth it is used to control weeds on the pavements and gutters, in our parks and around council managed housing," he said.

"I have seen it being used by council employees with very little protective clothing and with no advisory notices for the public.

"The council are aware of the possible effects and should, as a minimum, be reviewing the operatives' safety when applying and the public safety in the vicinity of its use.

"Its use should cease until we can be absolutely confident that it is safe.

"Alternatives may be more expensive but council employees and the public health should come first and there are issues for wildlife, pets and the wider environment."

But in a joint statement, Bournemouth and Poole councils said the chemical had been approved as recently as 2017 by the European Chemicals Agency’s Committee for Risk Assessment, which "concluded that the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria [...] to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or for reproductive toxicity".

They said: "In Bournemouth and Poole we use glyphosate-based herbicides to treat weed growth in roads and pavements and in shrub beds.

"All the herbicides we use are licensed and are applied in accordance with label requirements and by operatives who have PA1 and PA6a qualifications (safe handling and application of pesticides)."

The councils said staff were provided with "appropriate personal protective equipment" in accordance with the legally-required risk assessments.

"We do keep abreast of any DEFRA notifications, industry advice and any changes in legislation regarding the use of herbicides and we frequently review our working procedures in line with industry best practice."