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.