By Tony Reddin (guest opinion)
The national environmental group Sierra Club Canada announced Wednesday its support for pesticide-free buffer zones around key public areas on Prince Edward Island. This is a minimum standard for protection of public health. The citizens’ group Pesticide-Free P.E.I. has asked the P.E.I. government to create pesticide-free buffer zones of at least 25 metres around children’s playgrounds, schools, preschools, bus stops, hospitals, and senior citizens’ homes. We strongly support this request; and those regulations should be written to clearly apply to all pesticides, not just cosmetic urban applications.
Given the recent fish kill in the watershed for the future Charlottetown water supply, reports of cosmetic pesticide applications next to playgrounds, and reports of pesticides in many provincial test wells, Sierra Club is calling on the P.E.I. government to put in place province-wide buffer zones immediately.
The new school year will soon begin and some rural P.E.I. school properties have potato fields right next to them. There need to be large pesticide-free buffer zones to protect our children from poisoning.
Government should release the test results for those school wells, and conduct and assess tests of air quality at those schools if and when pesticides are being sprayed nearby.
Sierra Club is also calling for a comprehensive plan to be enacted as soon as possible to minimize pesticide drift and contamination of drinking water, and other unconsented exposures to pesticides.
Cosmetic pesticides must be phased out. Rules should require agriculture pesticide applicators to identify and avoid sensitive areas within range of the area being targeted, such as homes, businesses, recreation areas, water bodies, and wells. Other factors, such as weather, topography, and proximity to places of particular sensitivity, including those already mentioned, must also be considered and require applicators to take additional measures, such as wider buffer zones, to adequately protect public health and the environment.
Sierra Club believes that stronger pesticide regulations will lower health care costs by removing environmental toxins that affect people’s immune systems and resistance to diseases.
More and more Islanders are speaking out to have our health care placed ahead of the profits of pesticide corporations.
It is the responsibility of the P.E.I. government, not individual citizens, to provide leadership in promoting preventative health care and protecting public health and the environment from pesticides.
Tony Reddin is a Sierra Club of Canada P.E.I. volunteer and national board member