Editor: I recently attended the cosmetic pesticides forum in Charlottetown.
The information presented by scientists Bill Whelan (Canadian Cancer Society) and Roger Gordon (former dean of science at UPEI) was persuasive. Both cited many studies and recommended making use of the precautionary principle when determining pesticide laws.
However, the Department of Environment’s Erin Taylor was a bit of a disappointment. The last hearing on pesticides saw nearly 170 out of 173 speakers push for a comprehensive ban on cosmetic pesticides, and yet it did not pass.
Taylor reminded us that the outcome was based in politics (CropLife Canada, for example, which represents all manufacturers, distributors and developers of pesticide products, objected to the ban) as opposed to a decision based in science. She offered her personal belief that the regulations are adequate, while citing no studies, research or statistics to counter the profound information previously presented. She advised that she takes her recommendations from the PMRA, who continue to state that 2,4D is safe, and yet, P.E.I. has banned it.
This suggests blind faith hasn’t been our policy concerning the PMRA, so it seems contradictory. However, the statement I found the most concerning from her was ‘The dose makes the poison’.
I could not disguise my shock. This Paracelsus quote dates back to the 1500’s and demonstrated the first early understandings of toxicology. However, more than 500 years later it’s safe to say his findings were rather primitive.
Even if we were to take this ancient observation as fact (which of course it isn’t), it leaves out of the equation the problem of bioaccumulation. And beyond that, we now know that many chemicals are more toxic at small amounts than they are in larger ones.
And that isn’t to speak of breakdown products, chemical degradation and countless other well documented realities to consider when dealing with chemicals. To simply say, ‘The dose makes the poison’ is a dangerous oversimplification, and rather insulting to the intelligence of those in audience.