INVERCLYDE Council has sprayed hundreds of litres of weedkillers containing a cancer-linked chemical on school grounds, public parks and cemeteries.

The local authority has confirmed using products containing the herbicide glyphosate across the area over the last five years.

Products containing the substance have been shown to trigger a loss of biodiversity, and the chemical was classified as a probable cause of cancer by the World Health Organisation in 2015.

Parks, open spaces, tree bases, shrub areas, hard standings, cemeteries, headstones, paths and school grounds were among the types of areas sprayed with glyphosate-based products.

The council says that school grounds are treated outwith term times.

MP Ronnie Cowan told the Tele that he had spoken to the local authority about their use of the substance and had been assured it was not used near schools.

Mr Cowan said: "In 2019, I approached Inverclyde Council for clarification on the use of glyphosate-based weedkiller.

"I was assured that it was not used near schools, that appropriate methods were being employed during spraying that would safeguard those deploying it, and that it was only being used in gutters.

"I would expect Inverclyde Council to appraise the use of glyphosate-based weedkiller on an ongoing basis so they can guarantee the safety of the public and their employees."

A council spokesperson said that the products used by the local authority complied with all relevant guidelines, and were licensed and deemed safe to use by UK and EU health and safety authorities.

They said that steps had been taken to limit their staff's exposure to the chemicals.

They added: “We have procedures and risk assessments in place for the safe usage of such products, including training for staff who are required to use them, provision of personal protective equipment when doing so and we have invested in direct stem injection equipment to reduce the requirement for spraying where possible.

“We have also met with trade unions and agreed a number of procedures and continue to work with them to review those.

“Attempts are made to limit usage in the interests of the environment but also in terms of value for taxpayers’ money by specifically targeting only the weeds that need to be removed.

“Products containing glyphosate are particularly effective in and recommended for, among other things, the removal of harmful Japanese Knotweed which can spread rapidly and have a detrimental impact on buildings and other structures if left untreated.

“It is an offence to spread – intentionally or unintentionally – Japanese Knotweed and the council is duty-bound to eradicate it from our land, especially where it could encroach onto someone else’s land and in high profile public areas.

“Our policy is to treat Japanese Knotweed by repeated application of a suitable herbicide in these circumstances.”