The hazards of lawn chemicals

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Pesticides

Editor: In many municipalities, a sure sign of spring are the notices on residents’ doors indicating a chemical company intends to spray herbicides on a property within 25 metres.

These herbicides might be MCPA and Mecoprop (commonly called MCPP). Since the provincial government’s “ban” on cosmetic pesticides only extends to products containing 2,4-D, companies are still permitted to spray MCPA and MCPP, despite the fact that:

- The toxicity of MCPA is a topic of current research;

- MCPA has the potential to cause severe eye irritation;

- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. is requiring additional testing of the compound with regard to its potential to cause birth defects in two animal species;

- MCPA is moderately toxic to wildfowl;

- MCPA is slightly toxic to freshwater fish;

- MCPA is currently classified as a “restricted use” pesticide in the U.S.;

Regardless of whether a chemical product is “slightly” or “moderately” toxic, there is usually a certain degree of toxicity that is released through lawn spraying. Residents have to wonder whether these products are desirable in their communities, particularly where children are present, simply for the sake of having a greener lawn.

The National Academy of Sciences has reported that 50 per cent of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs in the first five years of a person’s life. Children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and their developing organs are less able to detoxify these chemicals.

In addition, the American Cancer Society has reported an increased risk for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when people are exposed to herbicides like MCPP, and exposure to herbicides for infants and toddlers significantly increases the risk of developing asthma.

It is high time that the provincial Department of the Environment began to better protect Islanders by extending its ban to cover all lawn poisons.

Peter Meggs,

Cornwall

Organizations: Environmental Protection Agency, National Academy of Sciences, American Cancer Society

Geographic location: U.S.

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