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Daily News Blog

21
Jul

Pesticide Use Down as Ban Passes in the City of Kamloops, Canada

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21 2015) Last week, the City of Kamloops in British Columbia, Canada voted 5-4 to ban the residential use of cosmetic pesticides. This decision follows a movement to ban cosmetic pesticides completely throughout the Province, and along with news that pesticide sale trends throughout the city are  down. The City of Kamloops joins over thirty other cities in BC that have considered or passed private cosmetic pesticide use restrictions in the absence of a province-wide ban. Pesticide Free BC, which advocates a comprehensive pesticide ban in BC, claims that such a ban would protect approximately 4.4 million Canadians from exposure to cosmetic pesticides, increasing the total number of Canadians protected to 26 million, or 78% of the total population. These figures take in to account the bans that have passed in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec, as they are considered “comprehensive.” However, absent an overarching ban within the Province, the City of Kamloops has taken what officials  feel is a necessary step to protect vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and those with chemical sensitivities, from the harms of pesticide use.Pesticide Free

According to the ban, pesticides will no longer be permitted to be sprayed on residential landscapes in Kamloops, meaning that they cannot be used for maintaining turf, outdoor trees, shrubs, flowers, or other ornamental plants. City Council members who voted in favor of the measure point to the risks chemicals pose to both human and environmental health, and the fact that safer alternatives exist, in support of their position.

“The city example is the goats,” said Councilor Donovan Cavers, who voted in support of the ban. “Lots of people scoffed at us using goats to control weeds but it has been very successful, very cost effective, and I don’t for a minute suggest anyone use goats on their residential lawns, but there are lots of ways to control weeds or control pests.”

Because the City of Kamloops cannot regulate the sale of pesticides, and residents will still be able to purchase chemicals if they   so choose, those who opposed the motion cited skepticism over being able to enforce to new rule as their main point of concern.

“The reality is this is not an enforceable bylaw,” said Mayor Peter Milobar, who was opposed to the ban. “When you start to look at the overall square of the city that would be sprayed if it was only professionals doing it versus all the square footage of the city that is still allowed to be used for spraying, it’s very minimal.”

However, pesticide sale trends in Kamloops may tell a different story. A pair of local businesses say that as of late, sales on the kind of pesticides that will be forbidden when the ban goes in to place January 1, 2016, have already gone down. Shawn Ulmer, a nursery manager and owner of one the of stores claims that while the ban in Kamloops is new, the move away from pesticides is not. “That change has been going on probably for at least 10 years now,” she said. “As more cities go into the pesticide bans, the industry has been changing. It’s just slower to find things that work.” Because of this shift, and even though many of her customers live in outlying areas where there is no ban, her store sells a variety of alternatives, from iron-based weed-killing products to ladybugs and other lawn-improving insects, all of which she believes are growing in popularity. “The trend has been towards organics or green products and I would say the bulk of our products are things you can use in the City of Kamloops,” she said.

This shift away from unnecessary pesticide use, even absent a ban is a promising show of citizens using their knowledge on the subject to make informed decisions about the products they are using on and around their homes. In fact, educating the public and making them more aware of the harmful side effects pesticides can cause and the alternatives available was one idea all Kamloops City Council members agreed on. Doctors and health advocates in Canada have been trying to raise awareness of the health effects of pesticide use and have been pushing BC to ban the use of all cosmetic pesticides for lawns and gardens since 2013, after the first attempt to ban cosmetic pesticide use in BC failed in 2012. Their research has identified scores of studies showing that human health is at risk from pesticide use. The Canadian Cancer Society has also warned pesticide exposure may increase the risk of certain cancers and calls for a ban on cosmetic pesticides, and it appears that the educational messaging they’ve hope to spread has paid off.

With the ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides having passed and buying patterns in and around the city indicating that pesticide use, as whole, is decreasing, it appears that Kamloops is taking important steps to protect its citizens from unnecessary pesticide use. This ban is mirrored in the United States by similar attempts to ban the use of certain pesticides on private property. A bill was introduced in 2014 in Montgomery County, Maryland that would ban the use of lawn and landscape pesticide, deemed nonessential, following the passage of a ban in one of it’s cities, Takoma Park, MD. The city of Ogunquit, Maine by ballot initiative  adopted an ordinance  banning the cosmetic use of pesticides on all property, public and private, in town.

Whether a small municipality or a large city, education and action on unnecessary pesticide use makes an enormous difference; for our own drinking water, for the most sensitive among us, children, and the elderly, for our pollinators, and for the unique environment and the flora and fauna where you live. For additional tools to support your efforts to adopt  pesticide  policy in your community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change, and visit the Lawns and Landscapes page. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Sources:   Kamloops BC Now, Kamloops This Week

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.      

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