Photo: Ontario and Nova Scotia lead the way on cosmetic pesticide bans. How does your province rank?

We compared provincial bans to identify the most promising approaches in Pesticide Free? Oui! A 2011 Progress Report.

By Lisa Gue, Environmental Health policy analyst

Today, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Quebec environmental organization Equiterre, released a progress report that finds Ontario and Nova Scotia lead the country in protecting their citizens from harmful cosmetic pesticides. We are encouraging other provinces to use the bans in Ontario and Nova Scotia as models in crafting or strengthening their own cosmetic pesticide regulations.

Pesticide exposure has been linked to a range of serious health problems (PDF), including cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Children are particularly vulnerable — and they're the ones most likely to be rolling around in the grass. It makes sense to switch to less toxic products and alternative gardening techniques to reduce needless exposures to lawn and garden chemicals. That's why more than 170 Canadian municipalities (PDF) and five provinces have now banned cosmetic pesticides.

Quebec got the ball rolling with the Pesticides Management Code in 2003. Next was Ontario, followed by New Brunswick, PEI, and Nova Scotia. Last year, Alberta introduced a limited restriction on "weed and feed" mixtures, as well.

While provincial cosmetic pesticide bans generally share a common purpose — the protection of health and the environment from needless exposure to pesticides — the approach varies considerably from province to province. We compared provincial bans to identify the most promising approaches in Pesticide Free? Oui! A 2011 Progress Report.

Ontario and Nova Scotia ranked highest because their bans focus on allowing access to a credible list of products that present a lower risk to human health. They also have a large number of pesticides which are prohibited, and the bans apply beyond lawns to other aspects of landscaping. However, there is room for improvement as both models offer exemptions that could be better controlled or even eliminated.

The province of B.C. could be next to ban cosmetic pesticides. Premier Christy Clark made headlines earlier this month confirming her intention to introduce a province-wide ban and the B.C. Ministry of Environment has already consulted the public on "new statutory protections to further safeguard our environment from cosmetic chemical pesticides" (the vast majority of submissions to the consultation supported a ban). But the B.C. government has yet to announce a specific direction or timeline for action on pesticides. Our new report points the way for BC to learn from the experience in other provinces and improve upon the best available models. If you live in BC, you can send a message to Premier Clark and let her know you want to see the province bring in a strong cosmetic pesticide ban sooner rather than later.

No matter where you live, you shouldn't have to worry about unnecessary exposure to pesticides when you play in the grass and enjoy your gardens. We have some great models for provincial cosmetic pesticide bans that work; now policy makers in other provinces need to follow their lead.

May 17, 2011

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Mar 24, 2012
1:02 AM

Wonderful website.I feel more enlightened on this topic after reading your article. Your content is fascinating, persuasive and thought-provoking. I just wish I was good with words like you so I could express my appreciation better.Thanks for sharing.

Nov 05, 2011
10:09 AM

I would like to begin by Thanking Doreen K Murray who has posted her thoughts and concerns over these poisonous herbicides. My husband and I have recently lossed our cat Misty ( 13 years old) in perfect health to these terrible toxins Trillion P ( turf herbicide).

We did not apply this herbicide. My inlaws neighbour at the lake did. Little did he know much about the kind of product he was using. This is a commercial products, not to be used in residential area. Did he really know how bad this herbicide was? Probably not. You need to be trained and licenced to use this . It is illegal. How concentrated was the solution applied? Must of been pretty concentracted because my cat ingested just a little amount of grass 4 weeks after it was applied. We barely had any rainfall. My cat was an indoor cat and sometimes would like to go outside for just a little while to enjoy the sun and nibble at some grass. Thankgiving day will be a day that I will never forget.
Within a couple of hours after my cat ingested the grass, she began to vomit, excessive salivation (drooling), muscle spasm, tremors, weakness, urine incontinence, more and more vomiting, hiding, trembling.
I brought her to the vet, did an xray to see if it was just something that she had ingested. But I told my vet I suspected toxin poison from the herbicide. She couldn't believe that the herbicide could still be so active after 1 month. But it was. People can't seem to enjoy the natural beauty, they are not taking the time to think about the consequences of using such useless products. All you will have a cosmetic looking green grass and in the process you are destroying the environment, wildlife, our drinking water, killing innocent pets, and also affecting the health of so many people. There a NO POSITIVES of using such products, ONLY NEGATIVES.

I was told by the product manufactuer of Trillion P that anyone using this products not licenced or trained , and using it in residential area can face up to 1 year in prison and face a penalty in ontario. This is a regulated product, however it is getting into the hands of any joblo out there. This is the scary part. Health Canada should educate the public on these herbicides and pesticides. Putting ads on television, radio, newspapers, about regulations, and consequences to follow if using these toxins are used, it would help.

Since we live in a small town and everyone know almost everyone, I must not be the wistly blower. I must keep my silence. But how is anyone to learn about the consequences if no one is ever reported? This was our cat and part of my family. We are a childless couple and my pets are my children.

Putting my thoughts is helping me with the grieving process. I just hope that someone will remember what they have read, and will pass on the info.

Nancy Isabelle Kapuskasing, ON

May 23, 2011
12:13 PM

Regarding pesticides and herbicides, I realize that children are particularly vulnerable. The thing I find frustrating at times is how only humans seem to be considered in the effects of the use of lawn chemicals in the media. What about birds, soil bacteria, earthworms? Although this is only anecdotal evidence, I believe that I am seeing a rise in the number of earthworms in the soil of an urban area since the city and the residents cut back on the use of herbicide. When I was young, I always saw earthworms on the sidewalk after a rain. During ten years in the 1990s, when I lived in Edmonton in an area of extensive spraying, I saw hardly an earthworm ever on the sidewalk after a rain. This year in Grande Prairie, I am finally seeing earthworms again. I hope this is a positive sign that the cut back and ban on spraying for weeds will improve the quality of soil and perhaps improve the chances of birds and other living things that depend on earthworms.

May 19, 2011
12:29 PM

May 19, 2011

I just finished orchestrating a short, but emotionally draining campaign against the herbicide/pesticide which The Board of our condominium have authorized for use on our rather extensive property. This is a 142 — 4 story condominium which sits on the edge of a broad, deep & wild ravine, fully treed and inhabited by a variety of animals (deer, rabbits, coyotes, squirrels, the occasional wolf, etc.,and many small local birds); the ravine has a steep decline with a walking path at the bottom and around the edge at the top. The ravine extends for some distance (kms.)back into the city. There is a stream that runs at the very bottom of the ravine — particularly when it rains, that tumbles down the slope into parkland (and an adjacent dog park) which has a series of ponds and lakes (and a water treatment plant) that drain into the North Saskatchewan River. One or more of the ponds are seeded with fish fingerlings each year to permit “catch & release” fishing.

Our Board authorized that The Ravines property have an application of sprayed fertilizer ? by a contractor, 3 times over the spring/summer. The lawn (a large area circumventing the building) is to have a fertilizer/herbicide combination applied. The herbicide is Trillion-P Liquid Turf herbicide; the pesticide is a product called Ecopest by Green Oasis. The reality is that some of the pyramidal Aspen (Poplar) which are right up against the building are infected with a borer; while some of the spruce are host to a destructive moth (both probably have immigrated from the ravine); so, we need to do something. And while there is an area on the front property that was dug up over winter and is now full of pig weed, the vast majority of the lawn is in good shape — with only the odd dandelion showing. I have never understood people’s passionate hatred of dandelions. They are actually quite pretty, nearly always the 1st bouquet a child brings his/her mother, and one year we ate dandelion salads and drank roasted dandelion root (with dandelions taken from our own natural property). This is our first experience with condominium living, and the decision to spray these hazardous chemicals raises my ire. I developed “chemically induced asthma” when we lived in Manitoba; I was travelling a lot and the chemicals used in hotel room were finally found to be the culprit. But there are many people living here with very serious lung and heart problems, diabetes is rampant and a significant number are on dialysis. There are others with serious asthma, cancers, COPD, etc.; and because it is a pet friendly building, there are dogs and cats. I know what this spraying will do to my breathing & health (wheezing, inflamed bronchial tubes, and fatigue; but I worry about my pets-particularly about our dog, a 13 year old fellow with a massive heart murmur. So, I wrote the Management company to alert them to the fact that I wanted an exclusion zone from spraying around my condominium. In a whole series of Emails back and forth between the Management Co. and myself, I learned of the “plan of attack” and was sent the chemical data for the products being used. I researched as best I could and came to the conclusion that these products would affect in some way, everyone and pet in the condo — clearly some worse than others. I also surmised that it possibly could kill all the birds that feed or nest in the trees — including a pair of mallards that like to fly up and rest under the spruce tree; and would sicken, if not kill all the small animals that visit the property and give most of us great pleasure just in seeing them. So, I did my research & passed it along, only to generate increasingly defensive replies to my emails from the management co. I talked to people I knew and formed a small group to attend at the Board meeting. Result: Board and Mgmt Co. 10; Doreen & group: 0.

I just received the minutes of the April 18th. Board Meeting & it appears that “The Decision” was made then with no information going to the residents. I presume that the contract was “let out” shorly thereafter; and so The Board was not about to change it a month later and perhaps face legal ramifications from the Contractor, or possibly have the Management Co resign; [excerpt from the minutes of April 18, 2011: 9.5. “Landscaping MOTION: Approve submitted proposal from Valhalla Landscaping for year contract.2011.12”], there was no mention of cost. When I asked that an Independent Consultant (possibly from the University or the Muttart Conservatory) be called in to assess the most ecologically sound ways to save the trees and outs’t the “pigweed” — they didn’t seem to know what I was possibly be talking about….and since The Board legally represents the residents, our little group was dismissed while the “decision” was confirmed. So where do I go from here. I am going to reiterate my demand for a personal exclusion zone (which will likely be ignored), but the same battle will occur next year and I’d like to be prepared a little earlier. It would be nice if the province would join the 6 others in instituting a pesticide/chemical ban (I noticed PEI has banned both 2,4-D and Trillion-P Liquid Turf Herbicide, while Ontario has all 3 ingredients of Trillion-P on its list. BUT, this is ALBERTA, what can I say!

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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