A plea to schools: Protect children from glyphosate


Australian children are being innocently exposed to glyphosate, a probable carcinogen, when they play outside. The need to protect our children, as well as our pets, our wildlife and our environment is urgent. 

While I don’t have children myself, my own experiences with cancer have sparked a passion and desire for protecting the health of children. I don’t want the children of today to ever have to go what I went through, to lose their sense of security about the world as they know it before they’ve even had a chance to start families of their own, or to face the possibility of not being here to watch their own children grow up.

Glyphosate is the key ingredient in Roundup, the most commonly used weedkiller in Australia. It was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015, because of it’s strong association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is also on a known list of carcinogens in the state of California.

There are around 500 products containing glyphosate registered for use in Australia including Roundup. It is commonly used in grounds maintenance, and is used by local councils around Australia. It has been found by IARC to linger in air, water and food for months after it has been sprayed. 

A recent episode of Four Corners, The Monsanto Papers, exposed the tactics deployed by global chemical corporation, Monsanto, to protect its billion-dollar business and its product, the weed killer, Roundup, and its primary ingredient, glyphosate.

In August 2018, a US jury ordered Monsanto to pay Dewayne Johnson – a man dying of cancer – $289 million because it’s Roundup weed killer contributed to his disease.  Nine thousand people in America are now suing Monsanto with claims that Roundup contributed to their cancer.

When our children play outside, they are being innocently exposed to this probable carcinogen, which can also make its way into classrooms and homes via shoes, and expose other vulnerable members of households (babies).


According to Nicole Bijlsma, Founder of the Australian College of Environmental Studies, long term, low level exposure to pesticides has been linked to other chronic diseases too –  from learning and behavioural disorders in children, cancer (bladder, breast and brain), asthma, diabetes, and neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases. Correlations between pesticide exposure and childhood leukaemia have also been identified in numerous studies.

[Source: p155 – p157 Healthy Home, Healthy Family by Nicole Bijlsma  ND, BHScAc (HONS), Grad Dip OHIS, Dip. Building Builogy, PhD candidate and founder of the Australian College of Environmental Studies].

Glyphosate also harms our environment and wildlife
Recent research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that glyphosate damages beneficial bacteria in the guts of honeybees and makes them more prone to deadly infections and may be contributing to a global decline in bees, along with the loss of habitat. It is also an agent of disease in some butterfly species.

If we want to provide food security for the children of today it is vital that we take action to save our bee populations.

Other countries are acting to protect their citizens
Germany and California and are minimising the use of glyphosate in accordance with recommendations that it “should not be found in gardens, parks or children’s playgrounds”.

Belgium, Malta, The Netherlands and Argentina have banned or restricted the use of glyphosate.  In Argentina, 30,000 doctors demanded the prohibition of glyphosate because it is associated with cancer, birth defects, skin diseases, respiratory illnesses and neurological disease. In November 2017 Emmanuel Macron announced France will issue an outright ban within the next three years.

Currently, there are no regulations or checks in place in Australia.

The CEO of Cancer Council Australia has expressed concerns that this issue is not being taken seriously enough by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Association and has called for a review of the chemical glyphosate.

It could take years for appropriate action to be taken by our national leaders in Australia, but we can’t wait that long to protect the health of our children. The need to reduce our children’s exposure to glyphosate is urgent. We must initiate this change at a grassroots level.

I’m calling on schools and daycare centres to assess what herbicides they are using and consider safer alternatives.

Alternatives to Roundup are mulch, steam weeding, slashing, or a more environmentally friendly mix.  Simon Mulvany from Save the Bees Australia is happy to be contacted for advice on alternatives (www.beethecure.com.au).

If you know of any schools or day care centres who have implemented changes already, I would love to know who they are so we can compile a list and celebrate schools, as well as councils, and share their examples of success to inspire others to do the same.

If you’re a parent and you feel strongly about this issue, I encourage you to reach out to your child’s day care centre or school and find out whether they are using Roundup or any other glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) in the school grounds or play areas, and if they are, ask them if they would consider exploring alternative options.

Here is an editable letter template you can use…

There is nothing more important than the need to protect and educate our future leaders on the effects of herbicides on our health and our precious environment. And of course, parents deserve peace of mind that measures are being taken to ensure the areas in which their children play are safe.

If you’d like to see changes made beyond school grounds, please sign my petition to restrict the use of glyphosate in public spaces in Australia, to help send a message to Canberra that we want our children to be safe where ever they play: www.change.org/glyphosate







Zara is a healthy home coach and keynote speaker on a mission to empower 1 million people to takes steps towards a healthier home. Zara learned about the link between our homes and our health after going through two different types of cancer. Zara is passionate about shining the spotlight on what she believes to be the least understood health challenges of our time, and sharing the things she wishes she had known, that could have prevented the illnesses she has been through. Recognised as one of Australia’s leading health influencers, Zara was a finalist in the 2014 Bupa Health Influencer of the Year Awards. She has appeared on TEN News, Today Show and The Project, been featured in the Herald Sun, I Quit Sugar, and contributed Medibank’s Be. Magazine and Fairfax health online publications. Zara contributed to the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s first comprehensive report on breast cancer in young women in Australia.

Comments are closed.