Photo: How to ask your neighbours to stop spraying pesticides

Post a suggestion or story below and 10 people will receive a Pesticide Free lawn sign courtesy of the Canadian Cancer Society (Credit: Canadian Cancer Society British Columbia and Yukon)

Ever asked a neighbour to stop spraying pesticides where children play or near your organic vegetable garden? How'd that go over?

I recently had to field this question from a concerned mom:

"I really like my neighbours. They're fantastic people and we get along wonderfully. They don't seem to mind my kids spying through the fence, riding their bikes over the lawn, or retrieving odd items from their backyard.

But in a conversation the other evening, they mentioned an ant problem. They'd sprayed their entire yard, walkways, fence line, and foundation of the house with insecticide.

My neighbour must have read the look on my face, because she said, 'Oh, but we did it on the weekend when you were away, so don't worry about the kids!'

I was mortified. All I could think of was my kids playing outside the last two days, including up alongside their house. It had also rained the night before. Who knows how much had washed into the river beside our property? I wanted to say 'You're poisoning my kids!"

Given that these harmful chemicals are still for sale in many provinces like British Columbia and Alberta (but banned in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia) how would you start this conversation with your neighbour?

I suggested she put up a pesticide-free lawn sign (pretty simple and non-confrontational). Most local Canadian Cancer Society chapters distribute them for free.

How have you started the conversation with your neighbours about the pesticides they use?

P.S. Post a suggestion or story below and 10 people will receive a Pesticide Free lawn sign courtesy of the Canadian Cancer Society!

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

July 5, 2011

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Jun 14, 2017
11:39 PM

I came home from work tonight and started to use my string trimmer in the back yard only to find that my neighbours had come onto my property and sprayed herbacide on my vegatables, shrubs and pretty much the last two meters of the yard. When asked about it they became defensive and admited that they had sprayed my yard. They are well aware of the fact that I am a Horticulturelist and have spray certification. I also have a nature scaped back yard. I am so very disappointed, worried, and really feel violated. Seriously who does that??

May 28, 2016
1:04 AM

How do i get my neighbours from not spraying herbicides or pesticides?

May 15, 2016
6:51 PM

Think global. Act local. I did ask my neighbor to not spray herbicides near our common fence line(650 ft). He had no problem with the request and happily complied. I told him I would weedeater the fence line instead, including his side of the fence, if he wanted me to. I have been slowly introducing him to organic applications. Mostly, he just didn’t understand the implications and unwanted consequences of repeated pesticide use and that there were safer and better alternatives. We’ve gotten to know each other better as a result of reaching out to him. It worked out for both of us.

May 13, 2016
7:28 PM

I recently had a series of difficult conversations with my neighbor over spraying malathion in his yard for mosquito abatement. I got our local vector control department involved to bring a third party in to educate him about the dangers of this pesticide because he refused to listen to me. It’s difficult to have these conversations, particularly when it’s over a practice that someone has been doing for decades (and something that their parents did). In the end, I think most people want to be good neighbors and most people would never do anything they thought might hurt children or pets. A little education (particularly from a local or State resource) can go a long way to helping people evolve toward a pesticide-free future.

Sep 16, 2015
1:35 PM

2 of our neighbours just started spraying their lawns and we are in a very high foot traffic elementary school area where a lot of kids walk past to and from school. There are busses constantly going by in the morning and afternoon. All the rest of our other neighbours would like to prominently display your “Pesticide Free” signs as a way to discourage them from continuing this process.We do not want confrontation but we all think they will get the message if we put them out at the same time the Lawn Company puts there signs out indicating that they have just sprayed.We think the kids on the busses will see this and definitely mention it to their teachers and the message will be spread……Just a thought… 10-15 signs will suffice. Bryan Haley Montague PEI

Sep 06, 2015
6:47 PM

Recently someone sprayed roundup all over the common grass play areas where many families children play in bare feet every day. How long until its safe for our kids to be out there playing freely?

Aug 13, 2015
2:47 PM

I created a power point presentation listing alternatives to use in lieu of pesticides and herbicides. I am going to present it to my association board and then invite people to the community center for another presentation and discussion. We are going to talk to our landscapers and see about implementing alternatives. They can use horticultural grade vinegar instead of Roundup. Black pepper (freshly ground) make ants go else where. Ivory soap and water is a great insecticide.

Jun 21, 2014
3:59 PM

Just a short little story, I was out walking my dog soon after they banned one of the pesticides in our province and saw the lawn sign. I wear glasses and misread it. I congratulated the man who was outside in his yard for going pesticide free! He thought I was being sarcastic when I was actually just near sighted! I made a joke out of it and sort of suggested he try it next time. It can be tricky!

Jun 21, 2014
3:18 PM

We have attempted this conversation with neighbours, and it has never been successful. It is sad to learn that people either do not care or believe that it is harmful to the environment and children. Luckily, we live in a province that has just banned these chemicals. Only if people would choose not to use them on their own.

May 21, 2013
2:31 PM

We have been living a nightmare with a neighbour for seven years. He sprays round-up all over the dirt where a garden once was and flower-beds in the front. He sprays 2,4-D all over the lawn and does this several times a year. He has killed many plants over the years. We tried talking to him, city mediation and several forms of government. He doesn’t care and is verbally abusive as well. We have put a lot into our home, have friends in the area and have a small home based business. Without a by-law we cannot do anything other than the expensive route of taking him to court. I have spend the last year researching pesticides as from May to Nov. my family has shown increasing toxic reactions to his excessive spraying. I am angry with civil, provincial and even the federal governments (namely “Health Canada”) for what we are going through. It is ridiculous that this stuff is allowed in our country. So many doctors and scientists warn of the dangers and it is not even working well (weed resistance, soil deterioration, decrease in yield and food quality…). This is all about money and the horrible cost that the greed of corporations will come to pass. I hope that people will “wake” up before it is too late!!

Jan 31, 2012
10:57 AM

I have an ancient neighbor. She is the matriarch of the neighborhood. She is a wonderful woman, kind to everyone, and, at 96 she practically bounds out the door to great you. After a few months of moving in, we noticed that her yard service was spraying herbicides. Our yard is adjoined to her yard, and my children and pets cross it often. I was tormented because it seemed impossible to ask an elderly citizen to change their habits. I decided to confront the very approachable man who cared for her lawn. I printed some information from Beyond Pesticides for him to read. I told him how worried I was about my children and made sure to ask how he felt, as a parent. I am not sure if her spoke to her, but he never sprayed again. After that, a group formed in the neighborhood to compose a flyer that would educate all our neighbors about the health risks in spraying pesticides. We had a lot of support. Finally, our county is trying to ban pesticides, as the result of another concerned group. I feel more encouraged at every turn. People are listening.

Aug 12, 2011
11:20 AM

It is refreshing to see DSF and the Canadian Cancer Society making an active stand against pesticides. I live in a province (SK) that still slathers cosmetic pesticides all over public spaces … we need to change peoples idea of aesthetics, and give the next generation a clear understanding of “whatever we do to earth, we do to ourselves”. We need to stop fouling our own nest! Slowly, but surely, we continue to try to chip away at pesticide use in this province, and we are making some headway.

Aug 03, 2011
7:37 AM

We are also surrounded by great neighbours. One day when my husband was pulling dandelions out of the front lawn with the weed puller, a neighbour drove past, stopped and said, “You could get that done a lot faster with my spray gun!” My husband looked up, smiled and said, “Thanks anyway but I like the bees too much.”

We also have a sign in amongst our shrubs that reads: “Environmental Steward — Habitat Acquisition Trust.” Signing on 5 years ago with HAT meant taking a pledge that we wouldn’t use pesticides, we’d compost, and encourage native species (salal, oregon grape, oceanspray, etc) in our landscaping.

Jul 11, 2011
9:59 AM

We do use not synthetic chemical pesticides anywhere on our property. We’re so pround of our organic fruit, herb and vegetable bee- and bird-friendly garden, composter, etc., and were horrified to see a big bottle of Roundup sitting on our neighbours porch the other day. We’re going to put up the Cancer society sign and hope to start a conversation with them.

Jul 10, 2011
12:17 PM

Luckily I know my neighbours quite well, and a number of them are against pesticide use for the obvious reasons.But some of us were wondering if there was anyone on the streets ( I am on a corner) that are using pesticides and how can we approach them. This article gave excellent points on doing just that.

Jul 09, 2011
9:00 PM

I have a Pesticide Free sign on the front yard (and back) and I also have a very open vegetable garden space that I like to use as a conversation piece with neighbours/friends/family. When they ask about the garden and what I do to make it so big and healthy I always tell them about the organic methods that can be used — not pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. I agree, education and patience is important.

I also use straight talk with my child and tell him about the dangers of pesticides and why we do not want to play in areas where pesticides may have been used. Educate a child, change the world!

Jul 07, 2011
9:54 AM

Jennifer — when it comes to dealing with ants in your home, I’ve posted a “Note” on the topic at the Queen of Green Facebook page with some prevention ideas, and tips like using diatomaceous earth.

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

Jul 07, 2011
8:31 AM

When my child or my dog is out walking and we see a lawn sign indicating that a lawn has been treated with something, I carefully walk around and don’t allow my dog or child onto the grass. While walking by I tell them why not — my son is now very aware of looking for the signs. I don’t shout my opinion but I do use a normal voice so hopefully some folks actually HEAR. Now that the vast majority of folks in Ontario don’t use harmful chemicals, whenever someone DOES, the smell is unbelievably clear. However, there are still things used to “weed” lawns that are legal, less smelly, and without a doubt still impact the frogs, toads, bees and butterflies.

I would love to have a sign to re-use every Spring to indicate that my lawn is pesticide free — frogs and butterflies welcome! — along with people and pets. Guess I could make one!

Jul 06, 2011
5:34 PM

Thanks everyone for your comments and input. As Kevin mentioned, engaging in discussion is a great place to start, and educating others is one way to help others understand the risks associated with common pesticide use.

@Austin and @Kristin, feel free to browse around out websites for more info you can share with your friends and neighbours. Our Pesticides page has more links to resources, publications, and tips to help get you started:
There’s also a report the Foundation has published listing some pesticides banned in other countries that are still used in Canada:

@Jennifer while we don’t have a specific solution for dealing with ants, I’d suggest doing some research and trying to google some alternatives! You’d be surprised by all the useful info that’s out there. In terms of dealing with other critters safely, we do have this resource that offers some tips:

Jul 06, 2011
8:09 AM

Informative and thought-provoking post. And speaking of ants, what are your favourite chemical-free ways of dealing with them? I don’t mind a few ants outside the house, but a small army has been invading my bedroom and pantry.

Jul 06, 2011
4:09 AM

i think it is important to have civilized discussions with neighbours about the risks of using pesticides on our lawns. Anyone with any common sense will realize that our children’s health is much more important than a minor ant problem or having the best lawn in the neighbourhood.

Jul 05, 2011
3:50 PM

I have been looking for a sign like that. I just started an organic community garden and the hardest lesson has been teaching what organic means. Insects welcome in our garden.

Jul 05, 2011
3:33 PM

Education is the best medicine! In order to help people understand, sometimes, we have to over simplify the most basic concepts to whom we are instructing. Not sure why people don’t take more of an interest in the environment and health. I suppose lack of accountability would be the major issue, people are always looking to blame others for current problems pertaining to anything and everything.

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