(Beyond Pesticides, February 28, 2007) Residents in the Canadian town of Pickering, Ontario, pleaded with their local government to ban the use of pesticides on public and private lands for cosmetic use with the exception of emergencies, infestations and agricultural uses. Meanwhile, well-known medical, public-health and environmental organizations have been lobbying Ontario officials to institute a provincewide ban on the aesthetic use of pesticides.
According to Durham Region News, Ward 1 City Councillor Jennifer O’Connell said she knew the mere mention that pesticides can cause a low sperm count would get Pickering City Council’s attention. At the February 19th meeting, the council unanimously passed the motion to have staff first investigate pesticide ban bylaws in other municipalities and then draft a Pickering bylaw. The draft will be brought back before the summer recess for council’s consideration.
The interest to introduce a bylaw to ban pesticides comes from Councillor O’Connell and Ward 3 Councillor David Pickles. Councillor O’Connell provided a presentation at the meeting on the chronic effects of pesticide use. Also supporting the ban, Gideon Forman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment said, “There is a great body of science to support that it has negative health effects.” Mr. Forman continued, “We are not talking about mild problems but deadly things like leukemia.”
Lawn pesticides have been linked to lymphomas, increases in childhood leukemia, low birth weight, endocrine disruption, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and ADHD (see fact sheet: Children and Pesticides DON’T Mix).
Mr. Forman said Canada has success stories to draw from that show non-toxic pest management practices work. He cited Toronto’s success with banning pesticides on their playing fields, and Parliament Hill and the Governor General’s house as examples of pesticide-free lawns. Although he appreciates the concerns of the lawn care business, Mr. Forman said that the future of lawn care is pesticide free.
Pickering residents such as Jeff Mojsovski said he wholly supports a ban. Mr. Mojsvoski said, “It is a risk to my children.” Christine Stockell, resident and volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society said, “Appropriate action should be taken to limit the risk to human health.” Ms. Stockell continued, “Personally, I like bending over, it burns a few calories.”
Pesticides also pose chronic risk to pets. According to Pickering resident Dave Renaud, a General Motors employee and president of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), his Maltese dog died of a liver disorder, which the veterinarian attributed to pesticides. Mr. Renaud said, “This stuff has no boundaries.” Given the limitless boundaries, CAW has been visiting local schools for the past eight years to educate students on the dangers of pesticides.
Dave Ryan, Mayor of Pickering said, “I think the time has come that we need to address this issue.” Mayor Ryan continued, “But the real issue is that the other levels of government need to take action.” Although Pickering can ban cosmetic use, Mayor Ryan said they can’t stop stores from selling the product. The latter would be up to other levels of government.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports the Canadian Association of Physicians, Canadian Cancer Society’s Ontario wing, the Ontario College of Family Physicians, Pesticide Free Ontario, and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, have been working to lobby Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Health officials to seek a ban. A Pesticide Free Ontario poll shows 71 percent of Ontario residents support a ban, while 22 percent are opposed (margin of error of three percentage points).
If Ontario’s government accepts the idea, Ontario would be the second province, after Quebec, to take this action and it would mean that more than half of Canada’s residents live in areas where the use of pesticides for cosmetic reasons has been made illegal, based on health concerns. Over 120 communities across Canada, including the cities of Toronto and Halifax, also have bans.
TAKE ACTION: Support the need for healthy lawns and landscapes by joining the National Coalition for Pesticide-free Lawns and signing the declaration.