TORFAEN council must be “cautious” about any future use of a controversial weedkiller, a meeting has heard.

Glyphosate, a powerful herbicide commonly used across the world, has proved controversial after being link with cancer during a landmark US court case.

Several councils in Wales are now reviewing their use of the chemical despite it being approved for use until 2022 by the European Union.

In Torfaen, contractors spray glyphosate on pavements twice a year while in-house staff tackle Japanese knotweed on council land by spraying or injecting the substance into the root.

The cleaner overview and scrutiny committee heard arguments for and against its continued use on Wednesday.

Carole Jacob, of Torfaen Friends of the Earth, said the council should commit to phasing out glyphosate and engage and research alternative methods.

“We are of the belief that glyphosate is not environmentally friendly and not good for human health,” said Mrs Jacob.

“We don’t see any warnings of when it’s going to be used, and I’d like to see a tighter control of how it’s used.”

Mrs Jacob added that she had been “highly incensed” by supermarkets stocking glyphosate products in food stores.

READ MORE: Torfaen council to reconsider future use of 'cancer causing' weedkiller

But co-opted committee member Alun Williams remained sceptical about the evidence, saying that there had been no outcry prior to the Monsanto court case.

“This case was based on the decision of 12 laypeople at one time, and that’s being appealed,” he added.

Councillors also heard from Alan Abel and Chris Phillips, directors of Complete Weed Control which is contracted by Torfaen council.

Mr Abel, who has worked with glyphosate since it was first introduced in the 1970s, said the minimum amount is used during each application.

“We’ve cut the amount of glyphosate used in south Wales by up to 80 per cent,” he said.

Mr Phillips described glyphosate, which is heavily diluted for use in public areas, as the “strongest tool in our armament”.

But he shared concerns about the availability of the herbicide to the public, saying: “We spend a fortune training our operatives, so we can send them out knowing doing it the correct way, but anybody can buy it from DIY stores.”

Acetic acid, or horticultural vinegar, had been trialled as an alternative but was later withdrawn in Bristol because it was “expensive and smelt like a fish and chip shop”, according to Mr Abel.

The meeting heard from council officers that glyphosate was the most efficient way of getting rid of Japanese knotweed.

Ecology officer Steve Williams said: “It is a major issue and realistically I don’t think we will ever eradicate it, all we can expect to do is control it.”

Councillor Norma Parish hoped that the council could eventually stop using glyphosate, saying: “I would stop the spraying of pavements immediately.

“In a few years’ time we could look back at this and think we were so wrong to think it was safe. We should move very, very cautiously.”

The committee recommended that the current provisions are maintained until further research is released.

They also asked for the public to be better informed of when and where sprays are being carried out in the borough.