By Tony Reddin (guest opinion)
Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action speaks as Leo Broderick of the Council of Canadians listens during a news conference on the steps of Province House Tuesday. They were calling on the provincial government to ban cosmetic pesticides. Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
In April 2010, after thousands of Islanders responded to an extensive campaign against cosmetic pesticides and demanded that they be banned, the P.E.I. government enacted very weak lawn-care legislation. At that time we asked the minister of the environment, Richard Brown, to ban all cosmetic pesticides except the established lists of less-toxic products that are acceptable in certified organic agriculture. This is the criteria that was adopted in N.S. and has been recently introduced in Manitoba.
Instead the P.E.I. regulations only banned one chemical, 2-4D. The minister spoke of a stepped approach and stated he would base changes in the regulations on complaints and concerns from the public, but, in spite of continuous annual complaints and concerns from many Islanders, there have been no changes yet.
It appears that victims of pesticide abuse, and volunteers and organizations working for the public good, are being disregarded in favour of highly funded lobbyists for the chemical industry whose main interest is their profit margin from the sales of pesticides.
Aside from the concern about what is allowed to be sprayed, there are other flaws in the regulations, for example, the P.E.I. legislation refers only to lawn care, not other cosmetic applications such as trees and flower gardens. And there are no provisions for buffer zones around schools, daycares, playgrounds, hospitals or the homes of other chemically sensitive individuals or people with medical environmental illnesses.
There are many ways to achieve an attractive lawn and garden without using chemical pesticides, for example, see ‘Lawn & Garden’ in www.peienvironmentalhealth.org.
The use of cosmetic pesticides (by definition, those which are not used to protect human health or grow food, and therefore are unnecessary) is a health hazard and a public health issue. Federal registration of a pesticide does not mean it is safe; indeed, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (which registers pesticides for use in Canada) states that it is good practice to reduce or eliminate any unnecessary exposure to pesticides.
Every year health-care costs are taking a bigger piece out of the P.E.I. budget. Strong pesticide regulatory policy will lower health-care costs. For example, hospital asthma admissions cost thousands every year, but these can be reduced by removing environmental toxins that sensitize the immune system (as certain pesticides are known to do), and may lower human resistance to flu pandemics.
Government should support Preventative Health Care by putting in place the strongest regulations possible to stop the use of cosmetic pesticides.
Islanders concerned about weaknesses in the cosmetic pesticides law and regulations should object publicly, and immediately contact Environment Minister Janice Sherry (firstname.lastname@example.org ). Send a copy to your MLA, Premier Robert Ghiz (email@example.com), Minister of Health Doug Currie (firstname.lastname@example.org), Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment Todd Dupuis (email@example.com), Leader of the Opposition Stephen Myers (firstname.lastname@example.org), and also please copy to email@example.com.
Demand a commitment to review and correct the regulations, with a clear schedule for phasing in stronger regulations.
The tide has turned against cosmetic pesticides; Islanders want their health placed ahead of the profits of pesticide corporations.
Tony Reddin is a volunteer with Sierra Club Atlantic Canada Chapter