Research by the Ontario College of Family Physicians has identified scores of studies showing that human health is at risk from pesticide use. Other recent scientific evidence shows aquatic ecosystems are especially endangered. The Canadian Cancer Society has also warned pesticide exposure may increase the risk of certain cancers and calls for a ban on cosmetic pesticides.
In May 2012, health and environmental advocacy groups were disappointed when a special committee in the Canadian provincial government of BC made the recommendation not to enact an all-out ban on cosmetic pesticides. The proposed rules would restrict the use and sale of some cosmetic pesticides and expand public education programs, but stop short of sanctioning an all-out ban. Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Bill Bennett explains, “The majority of the committee does not think the scientific evidence, at this time, warrants an outright ban.” The committee’s conclusion is in opposition to overwhelming support from the public (over 70% of British Columbians supported the legislation) and scientific community, and the Liberal BC Premier’s explicit endorsement of the ban.
According to The Vancouver Sun, the provincial government is making some changes to the Integrated Pest Management, however they fall short of the outright ban pledged by Premier Christy Clark during her Liberal leadership campaign. Instead, the legislation introduced a bill that would require a license to apply cosmetic pesticides. However, Mr. Forman told CBC News, “Even if these chemicals are used by licensed people, they are dangerous. Just because you have a licence it doesn’t make a poison less poisonous.”
During the past decade, over 150 municipalities and several other Canadian provinces, including Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, have banned the use of “cosmetic” lawn care pesticides because of health and environmental concerns. Manitoba will likely be joining this list. The bans have had the support of the Canadian medical community, including the Canadian Cancer Society and the Ontario College of Family Physicians.
Across the U.S., many communities, school districts, and state policies are now following a systems approach that is designed to put a series of preventive steps in place that will solve pest (weed and insect) problems. This approach is based on three basic concepts: (i) natural, organic product where use is governed by soil testing, (ii) an understanding that the soil biomass plays a critical role in soil fertility and turf grass health, and (iii) specific and sound cultural practices. Communities that have recently taken steps to ban or limit pesticide use include:Richmond, CA; Washington, D.C., which restricts the use of pesticides on District property, near waterways, and in schools and day care centers; Ohio’s Cuyoga County successfully banned a majority of toxic pesticide uses on county property; and the City of Greenbelt, MD. While stopping short of an all-out ban, Connecticut currently has a statewide prohibition on the use of toxic pesticides on school grounds. The state of New York also acted to protect children by passing the “Child Safe Playing Field Act” in 2010, which requires that all schools, preschools, and day care centers stop using pesticides on any playgrounds or playing field. Additionally, several communities in Cape Cod, Massachusetts are currently in the process of moving towards organic land care as a norm in their public spaces.
Beautiful landscapes do not require toxic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes webpage provides information on pesticide hazards and information on organic management strategies. The site also provides an online training, Organic Land Care Basic Training for Municipal Officials and Transitioning Landscapers, to assist in going pesticide-free. With the training, landscapers can learn the practical steps to transitioning to a natural program. Or, you can order Pesticide Free Zone yard signs to display to your neighbors. For assistance in proposing a policy to your city council (or its equivalent), contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected]
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.