Beyond Pesticides, (May 10, 2012), British Columbia (BC) may become the eighth Canadian province to ban cosmetic (lawn care) pesticides after the Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides submit their recommendations to the legislature later this month. The report will outline the bipartisan committee’s findings from over the last eight months on restrictions for non-essential pesticides use province-wide. Roughly forty municipalities throughout the province already have pesticide bans in place, and a survey found that a majority of Metro Vancouver voters across political party lines endorse a province-wide ban on the sale and use of lawn and garden pesticides. Though it is widely popular, environmental groups and human health organizations are expecting industry backlash and have expressed concern about whether or not recommendations will be strong enough and whether effective legislation will result.
“The poll shows nearly two-thirds of Vancouverites know pesticides are linked to childhood cancer,” said Canadian Association for Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) Executive Director Gideon Forman. “Among people with kids, support for a pesticide ban is at 76 per cent,” said Mr. Forman. “Candidates who endorse a strong provincial pesticide ban will be very popular with families.”
It’s believed to be the first time in British Columbia that the legislation has had such a high level of endorsement from supporters of all three parties. The poll results coincide with the announcement that a network of BC environmental and health organizations has launched a non-partisan voter education project to make pesticides a campaign issue in the Port Moody-Coquitlam by-election. Groups, including Greenpeace, Sierra Club BC and Wildsight, are partnering on the voter education with the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). The project includes a website — IVote4SafeLawns.ca — which helps voters send a pesticide ban message to all candidates.
During the past decade, over 150 municipalities and several 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. 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. The systems 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 the states of Connecticut and New York, Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, Cape Cod, over 30 communities in New Jersey, and Chicago’s City Parks.
Eliminating toxic pesticides is important in lawn and landscape management, considering that of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides: 14 are probable or possible carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, and 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants. The most popular and widely used lawn chemical 2,4-D, which kills broad leaf weeds like dandelions, is an endocrine disruptor with predicted human health risks ranging from changes in estrogen and testosterone levels, thyroid problems, prostate cancer and reproductive abnormalities. 2,4-D has also been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other lawn chemicals like glyphosate (RoundUp) have also been linked to serious adverse chronic effects in humans. Imidacloprid, another pesticide growing in popularity, has been implicated in bee toxicity and the recent Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) phenomena.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.