Group calls for pesticide ban near schools, seniors homes

Mitch MacDonald
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Retired UPEI professor and his dog Alfie relax on he lawn of his home in Stratford Saturday. He wants the provincial government to ban the use cosmetic pesticides near schools, senior homes and other special areas. 

A group of Islanders is calling on the province to enact legislation protecting children and seniors from the potential risks of cosmetic pesticides.

Pesticide Free P.E.I., a grassroots group advocating for the prevention of pesticide-related health risks, has made its dealings with the government public after seeing little progress during private emails and conversations made during the past year.

The group has made a public calling for the provincial government to ban  spraying cosmetic pesticides near playgrounds, day cares, schools, bus stops, hospitals and senior citizen complexes.

Roger Gordon, a spokesperson for the group and former UPEI biologist, said five provinces currently have a complete ban on cosmetic pesticides.

While the group would also like to see a ban on P.E.I., Gordon said right now the focus is on protecting the most vulnerable members of society.

“We recognize the government is not likely to do that (a complete ban) in the immediate future unfortunately. What we feel urgently needs attention is protecting children and elderly people from cosmetic pesticide spray,” said Gordon. “This is not an unreasonable request.”

Gordon said the group’s request for a 25-metre buffer zone near those areas would be similar to a current requirement for homeowners.

Residents that spray their lawns with cosmetic pesticides must give advanced notice to all their neighbours within a 25-metre radius of when the spraying will take place.

“It seems inconsistent to us that if any of my neighbours were to have their lawn sprayed we’d get a notice in the mail saying that spraying is going to be done… but there’s no provision to advise children that can come from all over the place visiting a playground,” Gordon said, adding that some studies have found that children are at a greater risk for harm from cosmetic pesticides than adults. “We think that is a dangerous situation and the very least the province can do is to put in place a buffer zone around these areas where children and elderly people congregate.”

Pressure for a ban on cosmetic pesticides increased after a public forum in Stratford a little over a year ago.

Pesticide Free P.E.I. was formed out of that meeting and has remained active since by lobbying members of government and holding another forum last month in Charlottetown.

However, Gordon said email requests and phone calls between the group and environment department officials have not led to any progress.

He said the group has been hitting a brick wall.

“We reached a point where we thought ‘we’re getting nowhere doing things in private’,” he said. “That’s why we issued this press release, it’s not because this is the first request we’ve made along these lines. We’ve sincerely tried.”

The group sent an open letter to Environment Minister Janice Sherry, as well as the department’s deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and other high-ranking officials, earlier this week asking the government to immediately create buffer zones near the areas.

The group said it hopes for the buffer zones to be brought in ahead of the lawn spraying season for chinch bugs in August.

Geographic location: Stratford, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Marina Silva-Opps
    July 29, 2014 - 20:06

    Indeed, this is not an unreasonable demand. We are supposed to be a province that cares about people, especially children and elderly people. Let's try to do it!

  • Pam Hall
    July 22, 2014 - 15:31

    Even a buffer zone does not go far enough to protect children walking to school or a school bus stop. There is no protection for residents walking or biking so the notices only confine you indoors at your home on nice days. Cosmetic pesticide spraying is an infringement on the rights of all residents in the community and harms our immune system that fights illness and disease. They mimic estrogen that increases the risk of estrogen-receptor+ (ER+) cancer in females and males. Mecoprop-p is not registered for food crops but is allowed to drift onto vegetable gardens grown for healthy food. Many gardens have been seeded over because of this. The Health Canada website states that we should reduce or eliminate our exposure to pesticides as they are toxic and hazardous. The Dept. of the Environment and the Dept. of Health and Wellness need to work together. Prevention is necessary to reduce cancer rates. And that includes protection from second-hand smoke (SHS) that kills 25 Islanders a year and affects many others with heart and lung conditions and cancer. SHS reduces the effectiveness of chemotherapy and increases the risk of recurrence for cancer patients/survivors. The QEH has refused to post "No Smoking on Hospital Property" signs for almost 3 years while patients struggle with various illnesses. The Smoke-Free Places Act needs strengthened and enforced. Businesses fail to post signs at doorways. Islanders all need to fight cancer together and protect one another. Living a healthy lifestyle is not enough with cosmetic spraying and second-hand smoke all around you.

  • Roger Gordon
    July 21, 2014 - 13:58

    I won't respond to "address some real issues" as his or her comments were facetious at best. Vick's comments bear addressing though. He cites the DOS at McGill as saying that lawn pesticides are not that harmful. I have no idea whether Martin Grant, who is a physicist not a natural scientist , said such a thing. But everyone's entitled to one's opinion. As a biologist/physiologist who has published over 60 articles in international refereed journals on buiological control of insect pests, I am convinced that these chemicals are harmful. And this is not alarmist rhetoric, as one or two misguided folk on her seem to think. The phrase "garbage science" was tossed around. Well, how about checking out a few of these: Cox,2004. J. Pesticide Reform24:10-14; Cox 2005. J. Pesticvide Reform 25: 10-15; Turner et al. 2010. Env. Health Perspect. 118: 33-41. Sanborn et al. 2012. Ont College Fam. Physicians. Pesticide Review. Garbage science? I think not. To "concerned." I sympathize with your plight of having a child who is allergic to weeds. But, spraying your lawn with pesticides will only add to his/her woes by exposure to other health risks. Besides, weed pollen is in the atmosphere not just over your lawn, so even ridding your lawn of every single weed would not make any difference. Also, you don't need to spray with pesticides to keep weeds at bay. I and many others do it without using them. Last, how do children with allergies to weeds fare in provinces that have banned pesticides? Sorry, but your reason to spray doesn't wash with me.

  • Darcie Lanthier
    July 21, 2014 - 11:25

    Since 1981 when the first ban was enacted, cosmetic pesticides bans now protect more than 80% of Canadians but on Prince Edward Island we actually have a law that prevents Municipalities from enacting bans to protect their citizens. For the uninformed who think pesticides are perfectly fine, please consider that the Canadian Cancer Society has called for a complete ban. For those who think it's unfair to the business who apply these chemicals, the lawn care industry has grown in communities where bans are in place. There is no need for cosmetics pesticide, lawns will grow and flourish all by themselves. Set your mower to mulch, raise your blade one click this week and another next week. There are lots of great resources to help you have a beautiful lawn and a fabulous garden without any risk of harm to yourself or your neighbours. Good neighbours don't use pesticides.

  • Mary Dicks
    July 21, 2014 - 09:45

    I am definitely on board with Pesticide Free P.E.I! I strongly believe cosmetic pesticides should be banned for many reasons. Speaking from my own experience neighbours within a 25-metre radius of the spraying is NOT always given a notice prior to spraying. Statistics indicate that PEI has the highest growing rate for cancers and respiratory problems...and yes smoking may be a contributor but it definitely isn't the total cause.... I am convinced that if the pesticides were banned the cancer rates may lower too. I will say this that if any political party comes to my door asking for my support in the next election banning pesticides is one of my top priorities....

  • Rae
    July 21, 2014 - 09:36

    Why do you think the provincial government is afraid to bring a cancer epidemiologist to PEI? Because they know what will be discovered, and then they'll have to act ... and possibly assume some responsibility for subjecting Islanders to such chemical exposure.

  • Yes indeed
    July 21, 2014 - 09:33

    This is so self-evident and compellingly obvious - do it now!

  • Gail
    July 21, 2014 - 09:32

    Fed up's 'a little DDT won't hurt you' attitude is a good example of why government needs to act to protect people from their own ignorance. People pushed for the stoppage of spraying DDT in our ditches, for cigarette bans, for more organic food and now people rightly push for an end to cosmetic pesticides in urban areas. Both provincial and municipal governments have been dragging their feet on this for far too long. Get things done or get out of the way and let those who will work for real change take over. People need to keep this an election issue and keep pushing for decreasing chemical use on PEI at home, and on the farm. I applaud the efforts of R. Gordon and all others who are lobbying for this change.

  • Ny Campbell
    July 21, 2014 - 09:18

    I'd like to see the use of pesticides banned entirely but this is a good way to start!

  • concerned
    July 21, 2014 - 08:25

    my child has a 4+ allergy to weeds... the weeds have a better chance of killing him (by severe allergic reaction) than pesticides. So, if you want to ban pesticides, how do you make the playground weed free and safe for kids (and there are many) with severe allergies??

  • Fed up
    July 21, 2014 - 08:00

    I maintain that if these people with too much time on their hands keep banning everything....they should find something to kill the mosquitoes, earwigs, etc....THAT is what is going to kill us....bug bites! No one can open their doors or walk across their yards without receiving multiple bites! We used to be able to sit ou (remember fresh air?) but it's impossible now! My grandparents lived - on farms -through DDT and other "poisons" and lived to their 90's! I don't remember ever seeing a black fly or mosquito....

    • Yes indeed
      July 21, 2014 - 09:43

      such obsolete thinking - those poisons you love were banned for a reason - they are harmful to humans and other animals - even you! There would be no eagles now if DDT was not banned for instance but that could be something you would not mind.

    • Elizabeth
      July 21, 2014 - 17:02

      Clearly this person doesn't expect to be taken seriously. Even Monsanto wouldn't try to defend DDT at this point. This person is either trying unsuccessfully to be funny, or there is a little too much DDT is his gene pool...

    • Joan Diamond
      July 22, 2014 - 10:02

      Dear Fed up. Your comments reveal your lack of knowledge on this subject. The increase in mosquitos and many other insects has actually been caused by overuse of pesticides. For instance bats, and many other natural predators of mosquitos, who once thrived on PEI, are now pretty much non-existent. Nature has a way of creating balance, but when we introduced industrial farming and cosmetic pesticide application, many of these species have been all but wiped out.

  • concerned
    July 21, 2014 - 06:56

    I am concerned for the health of our province with all this spraying of poisons. Yeah Health Canada hasn't done anything about it, but they were also the ones that allowed cigarette smoking for years without health warnings. But what really rips me is that people think that 2 days is enough to have the signs up. Where do they think the chemicals go? Away? They don't just vanish, just because you don't see them doesn't mean that they are not there. Thank you Roger for speaking for us and keep up the good work, my kids thank you for it.

  • Cheryl G
    July 21, 2014 - 06:40

    There are very few people left who support the use of pesticides. The only people to defend them are those who are totally uninformed. They haven't done their homework and they remain ignorant of the facts. It's the same with tobacco. It's the same with prejudices. It's the same with anything that's is so obviously wrong that you would have to be living under a bridge to still think it's okay. The problem is the politicians. They don't want to lose the tax dollars nor do they want to upset industry. And even though they know it's wrong too, they won't make a move until they get hundreds of emails, and letters, and people standing on their doorstep. So, instead of writing on the Guardian website, maybe you should send your thoughts to your MLA and to Minister Sherry. A simple Google search will get you their email addresses. Because if you don't they will continue to think it's an issue for the back burner.

  • vick
    July 21, 2014 - 06:27

    I read somewhere that lawn pesticicdes are considered safe by health canada and are only .6% of the pesticides being used out there so why go after lawn chemicals???? Oh and the Dean of science at McGill also states that these lawn pesticides dont pose the risk Gordon speaks of here! Gordon and his scare tactic's along with garbage science I beleive is the term used for he and his followers!

    • Janet
      July 21, 2014 - 14:00

      "I read somewhere ..." Duh!? Perhaps you've never heard of sources, but without them you just sound slightly stunned. Google sources, then google the something you may have heard somewhere and go from there. Then get back to us.

  • w kennedy
    July 21, 2014 - 02:07

    good luck but seems it is always a continuing tug of war. the sad part is governments can not be trusted to steward things. The most common Roundup glyposides are demonstrated to promote fungus growth this is killing the 100 year old trees. And with this humid climate results in human toxic mold neural damage the cost of this alone warrants action ASAP As the visable red soil dust blows over the entire island so does the dry chemicals and we drink ground water here???

  • Andrew Lush
    July 20, 2014 - 21:32

    This is a great place to start, before moving on to reducing the chemicals used in our food production. I have a chemical free lawn, and the up-side is that I don't have to mow it frequently - and the bees love the clover flowers.

  • AJ
    July 20, 2014 - 19:46

    A weed would not dare grow on my neighbor's lawn! He must hate my 4 acres of carefully mowed weeds mixed with the occassional blade of grass. I like the way his lawn looks but I also know the consequences of over spraying weed and bug killers and the use of products like RoundUp. Our grand kids play on the "lawn" and I have no intention of trading their health for false pride.

  • reality
    July 20, 2014 - 19:14

    PEI is a "CANCER GARDEN"---- ask a cancer Doctor !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Garth Staples
      July 20, 2014 - 19:40

      I had cancer treatment and it had NOTHING to do with pesticides. THINK before you write.

    • reality
      July 23, 2014 - 11:42

      i wasn't talking about you necessarily -whoever you are !!!-although you seem to think otherwise --are you a cancer doctor ?

  • Address some real issues
    July 20, 2014 - 15:24

    I too am tired of "Mr." Gordon and his special interest group. Why don't you help with child poverty, smoking, obesity or some of the things that really do cause poor health for our citizens. Trying to scare people to death seems to be your goal, rather than true dialogue and an improvement of health status.

    • intobed
      July 20, 2014 - 22:28

      There are many groups that are looking into many issues that affect us. These groups are made of people who truly care about other people, and wish to make a positive change. Why don't you make a positive change, and support "Mr." Gordon?

  • Garth Staples
    July 20, 2014 - 13:08

    I guess the Guardian is on weekend break and hasn't seen my comment. Surely that is the reason for non publishing.

    • Tony Reddin
      July 20, 2014 - 23:43

      Was this your comment? : "Don't kill weeds and the world starves to death. Funny how some people's intelligence gets lost. Some people have the notion that organic farmers can feed the world. Ask the starving kids in Africa. " Are you defending cosmetic pesticides? (which by definition aren't for farming) Please be respectful in your comments.

  • Edith Perry
    July 20, 2014 - 12:21

    A good and considerate neighbour / citizen does not do things that negatively impact on their neighbour eg using poisons to keep lawns looking " pretty ". These poisons have been proven to be deadly for all living organisms including humans so why would someone think they have the right to inflict this on others? Because they can? Time for all levels of government to legislate bad and irresponsible behaviour for the good of all. Thank you to Roger and the others who have had the courage to speak out publicly on this issue.

  • Edith Perry
    July 20, 2014 - 12:20

    A good and considerate neighbour / citizen does not do things that negatively impact on their neighbour eg using poisons to keep lawns looking " pretty ". These poisons have been proven to be deadly for all living organisms including humans so why would someone think they have the right to inflict this on others? Because they can? Time for all levels of government to legislate bad and irresponsible behaviour for the good of all. Thank you to Roger and the others who have had the courage to speak out publicly on this issue.

  • Kathleen Romans
    July 20, 2014 - 09:39

    A New World Pesticide spraying is not really about bugs, it's clearly about wanting to showcase an image. We've been groomed over time to believe that 'who we are' is reflected in outward appearances: the house, the car, the landscaping etc. Which was fine for a number of years when we didn't know better. Things have changed. Our chemical usage since the 1950's is proven to be dangerous and deadly. Now we are called upon to reflect a new way of being in the world. It is always hard to accept new ideas and make changes but frankly - we don't have a choice anymore. So do we want to be like lemmings jumping off cliffs or do we want to provide safe communities for our families and the next generations. Sometimes when I have an allergic reaction to spray, I really wish those yards were made of astro turf!

  • Just sayin'
    July 20, 2014 - 09:12

    Children still play on school playgrounds in the summer. Take a serious look at ALL the people, who are ill or have died with Cancer and other illnesses on PEI. It's a much higher rate than anywhere in North America. I know that because my son is a Cancer surgeon. He will tell you, and so will study after study, that the poison that kills the bugs on your lawn will also kill you, your children, you pets, your neighbours. You might be willing to risk your life and take your chances for a perfect lawn but eventually, you will be stopped, either will illness or legislation. The right of one does not exceed the rights of all in this society YET!

  • Gail
    July 20, 2014 - 08:39

    There is absolutely no reason for using cosmetic pesticides. I am rather ashamed that Charlottetown is not leading the charge on this one. The science is sound, the risk of exposure is not worth the price of pretty grass and it's a decision whose time has long past. This needs to be an issue in the next mayoral election and people need to be ready to make change. PEI is drenched in chemicals from cosmetic to large scale agriculture. Ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous. People fought smoking as well ... lets not take as long to recognize the health risks of cosmetic pesticide use. It's time for government to take responsibility and do what's best for the health of all Islanders.

  • Elle
    July 20, 2014 - 08:31

    Finally! Someone saying what we've all been thinking! Enough is enough. A person would have to be very naïve to think spraying chemicals on their lawn would have no repercussions health-wise. Why should I be exposed to the hazards because another person is uninformed? Thanks for covering this story!

  • More info
    July 20, 2014 - 07:56

    I also am surrounded by people who have their lawn treated and it is very often. Most of them are seniors who have it done in my area. You may do better by advising the public about the chemicals they are using and the heath risks associated with the chemicals. If we agree with you we will join your cause.

  • Nature lover
    July 20, 2014 - 07:43

    Billy P. - There is really no good reason to spray chemicals all over your lawn. There are natural solutions to things like chinch bugs - try dish soap and vinegar! Why should you be allowed to poison everyone and everything (people, birds, squirrels, etc.) simply for your vanity? Or if the chinch bugs are that bad, clear your lawn and re-sod it. And by the way - the next time someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, think about the environment that caused it.

  • Roger Gordon
    July 20, 2014 - 06:48

    Billy P - you do not have a right to expose children unnecessarily to toxic chemicals. On one point you're right. School isn't in during August. That's when kids will be wanting to use the playgrounds. They should be able to do so without jeopardizing their health. As for my free time, as you call it, I spend a good part of it taking care of my lawn without using chemicals. It's a good, healthy lawn. No need to use them.

  • Adolphus
    July 19, 2014 - 23:30

    Way to go, Billy ! Hey, we've all got lawns to cut here - we haven't got free time!

  • Jenny
    July 19, 2014 - 21:39

    A ban is absolutely essential, since there are actually still some simple minded people who can't comprehend that being exposed to chemicals is detrimental to the health of people and the environment. Well done!

  • Dan
    July 19, 2014 - 21:32

    I totally agree when it comes to protecting the children from the sprays, but why seniors? I mean, if they've already been exposed to it all these years the damage is likely done...I think the solution would be to push for a complete ban because prevention is the key! When you look at it in terms of preventing disease/illness, the general adult population would be the more vulnerable wouldn't they?

    July 19, 2014 - 21:00

    Okay Billy you have bugs. BIG DEAL. You are completely relaxed to the point that you could poison animals or people but that is okay as long as you don't have bugs. Very vain aren't we?. Okay with poisoning the ground water that you drink as long as you get those bugs that do not fit your life style. Hope you live a long life before you poison catch up with you or your family.

  • How It Is
    July 19, 2014 - 20:48

    I find it incredibly selfish of people who think their lawn is more important that people, pets and wildlife. All pesticides should be banned. People need to learn to live with nature instead of fighting it all the time. News flash! People are a part of nature. They NEED nature to survive. Stop trying to kill it and pave over it.

  • Agree!
    July 19, 2014 - 17:39

    Stop all spraying of lawns......enough is enough.....I get a notice every few weeks on my door! And yes I live in Stratford! Am tired of it....government needs to listen!

    • Government Needs to Listen To EVERYONE
      July 19, 2014 - 21:51

      If they are not spraying your lawn mind your own business.

  • Billy P
    July 19, 2014 - 16:58

    School isn't in during August and if I have chinch bugs in my lawn your not stopping me from spraying my lawn … have to much free time on your hands go back to work or do something that means something !

    • Enlightened
      July 19, 2014 - 17:47

      GIVE YOUR HEAD A SHAKE! Are you seriously putting your lawn with a few bugs over harming your neighbors and children? UNBELIEVABLE! Your comment leaves me speechless.

    • fed-up
      July 19, 2014 - 20:25

      @Billy P your attitude sucks 'its all about you' man up fella and join the reality of these chemicals they are dangerous and harmful to everybody ...jeez man its a GD lawn not human take your selfish attitude and your chemicals and put them where the sun don't shine...

    • Garth Staples
      July 19, 2014 - 21:05

      Don't kill weeds and the world starves to death. Funny how some people's intelligence gets lost. Some people have the notion that organic farmers can feed the world. Ask the starving kids in Africa.

    • Rebecca
      July 19, 2014 - 21:49

      You are painfully uninformed on the hazards of chemical usage if you would make this statement. And furthermore, you would sound a lot more intelligent if you learned when to appropriately use to, too, or two in a sentence. And for your information, 'Your; implies ownership. You mean you're, or you are. If you represent the spraying population at large, then that explains a lot.

    • Allan M
      July 20, 2014 - 07:04

      Hey Billy, you know that regular yard maintenance should keep them away. Watering your yard in august should minimize any effect they may have. A quick Google search showed me how to. That should fix your issue. As for advocating for a pesticide free PEI, that means something.

    • Mark
      July 20, 2014 - 08:34

      Too much free time on his hands? Given his credentials, I think it's obvious that this man would have a better idea on the scope of this problem than you might. And by the way, if you are going to rant in comments, you might want to brush up on your grammar.

    • Fran
      July 20, 2014 - 08:39

      Such spelling.

    • excuse me
      July 20, 2014 - 08:46

      These chemical sprays kill more than bugs.

    • don
      July 20, 2014 - 09:38

      billy p. it is simple do not use poison if u like it that much please have a drink of it. we do not need it any place of PEI. but ghiz will not ban it period as the tax's on the poison is needed plus the companies on PEI is big money and money talks. it is a shame the guys like you are helping to poison us.

    • joan diamond
      July 20, 2014 - 10:46

      Billy P. Clearly you have done no research on the effects on health of spraying your lawn with these poisons. I guess it's true that ignorance is bliss...unless of course you are the neighbour who ends up getting sick because of the ignorance of people like you.

    • Ivy Wigmore
      July 20, 2014 - 11:13

      The brutal fact of the matter is that some people put more value on a boring swath of grassy lawn than the health of other people and the environment. Toxins sprayed on a lawn don't just "go away" -- they impact the air we breathe and the water we drink.

    • Ivy Wigmore
      July 20, 2014 - 11:14

      The brutal fact of the matter is that some people put more value on a boring swath of grassy lawn than the health of other people and the environment. Toxins sprayed on a lawn don't just "go away" -- they impact the air we breathe and the water we drink.