Kids, seniors deserve our protection

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On P.E.I., parents should know when it’s safe to use playground

The issue of banning cosmetic pesticide use on Prince Edward Island has been a political hot potato for some time now. And, as with all such controversial debates, the devil is always in the details.

The issue is back in the news following some weekend advocacy by a group called Pesticide Free P.E.I. It is a grassroots organization that advocates for the prevention of what it terms pesticide-related health risks. On the weekend, the group reiterated its belief the provincial government should enact legislation protecting children and seniors from the potential risks of cosmetic pesticides.

While the group would be made most happy by seeing a complete ban on cosmetic pesticide use, for the time being it would be satisfied if the province moved to protect some of society’s most vulnerable citizens — children and seniors. It wants to ban spraying cosmetic pesticides near playgrounds, day cares, schools, bus stops, hospitals and senior citizen complexes.

Roger Gordon, a spokesman for the group and former UPEI biologist, said the request for a 25-metre buffer zone near those areas would be similar to a current requirement for homeowners. Residents who spray their lawns with cosmetic pesticides must give advance notice to all their neighbours within a 25-metre radius of when the spraying will take place.

Mr. Gordon and the group say it doesn’t make sense that while residents get notice when spraying is about to take place, there’s no provision to let children and their parents know when the area around a playground is being sprayed. What parent hasn’t heard the call from the wee ones in the back seat to stop at a colourful and fun looking playground. It would be nice to know a spraying program had not just taken place. And when it comes to children, Pesticide Free P.E.I. says there are studies that have found children are at a greater risk for harm from cosmetic pesticides than adults.

P.E.I. doesn’t have a ban on cosmetic pesticide use, but it does ban a key chemical ingredient that is used in many pesticides.

Of course, cosmetic pesticide use is only part of the pesticide debate in the province. There is also the issue of agricultural chemical spraying that is used to control pests. In the past, runoff from agriculture chemicals has found its way into Island streams with deadly results for fish. The industry has responded with better stewardship of the land, which is designed to prevent runoffs from reaching our precious waterways.

At least when it comes to agriculture pesticide use, the industry can argue the spraying is necessary to enable farmers to grow their crops and make a living. Farmers will argue that given the choice, they would just as soon not have to spray costly chemicals. Critics of cosmetic spraying argue that having a nicer looking lawn isn’t worth the price of causing health problems to neighbours or fellow citizens.

One of the areas where the call for a ban on cosmetic pesticide use gets dicey is when it comes to controlling legitimate insect or weed infestations. For example, is it realistic to expect homeowners to stand by and allow their house to become overrun with ants or some other undesirable visitor? Of course, there is usually more than one way to control such things, and the answer doesn’t always have to come from a spray can.

So the debate goes round and round.

In the absence of agreement on a cosmetic pesticide ban, Pesticide Free P.E.I.’s call for a buffer zone around playgrounds and senior citizen facilities seems like a sensible one and something the province should ensure takes place.

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island

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