Editor: In a recent edition of the Guardian (May 13, 2014), Mr. Andrew Thompson presented StatsCan data for overall cancer rates nation-wide that in his opinion, showed that pesticide usage on P.E.I. is not problematic. The raw data Mr. Thompson presented do indeed show that with an incidence rate of 409 new cases per 100,000, P.E.I. ranks fifth in the table of provinces with the highest cancer rates, with Newfoundland (430) being the worst. Another way of looking at this, however, is that there are eight other provinces and territories that fare better than P.E.I.
Where Mr. Thompson falls short in his analysis, is in his presentation of raw data, combined for males and females, and for all forms of cancer. Upon closer inspection, one can see that P.E.I. (490) and New Brunswick (491) tie as the provinces with the second-highest overall cancer rate among men and P.E.I., Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland women have the highest rates of colorectal cancer across the country. The important question is why? The answer is not rooted in a simple snapshot of overall cancer rates among provincial populations.
Furthermore, it may be the case as Mr. Thompson states, that Newfoundland with its very high cancer rate does not have a strong agricultural base, but it does have a forestry sector that in the past deployed intensive spraying of pesticides such as fenitrothion.
Cancer is a complex disease and the development of specific cancers is linked to a multitude of lifestyle factors — diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity, physical activity, and environmental exposure to different types of chemicals. Pesticides fall in this last category. And more recent scientific studies, high-quality meta-analyses, have shown a link between pesticide exposure and Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and childhood leukemia.
As a society we should do everything we can to minimize the risk to human health by addressing those factors over which we have control. Cosmetic pesticides constitute a factor we can control. We should ban them.
Dr. Bill Whelan,
University of Prince Edward Island