Stay calm and spray on

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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A sign warning of pesticides spraying.

By Maureen Kerr (guest opinion)

The two-part study “Pesticides and human health,” recently published by our Chief Public Health office, might as well have been titled, ‘Stay Calm and Spray On.’ Islanders are more than a little baffled by the studies for several reasons.

Part 1 and part 2 draw completely different conclusions. For instance, the conclusion in part one states that “several pesticides exposures have been shown to have significant human health effects” and that we should “reduce the use of and exposure to pesticides for the general population and for vulnerable groups (ie pregnant women and children).”

The Part 2 conclusion reads “Based on the current review, pesticides used in P.E.I. following “labeled-practices” do not pose a significant public health risk.” Just prior to drawing this conclusion the authors (we don’t know who they are, as no names were published), they also state

“Several meta-analyses evidenced the association between lymphohematopoietic cancers and agricultural occupational pesticide exposure”, and “the association between agricultural employment and Parkinson’s Disease has been evidenced in the literature.” These are just a couple of such alarming statements out of a plethora within the reports. Although our Department of Health touts the use of “The Precautionary Principle” these conflicting conclusions are evidence to the contrary.

Throughout the report, the authors insinuate that because rates of certain diseases are in line with rates in other provinces, we shouldn’t worry. This is ludicrous. All Canadians have very good reason to be concerned about our over reliance on pesticides to grow our food.

I also find the circumstances around the publishing of these reports to be curious. One would think that after all the decades of concerns about the dangers of pesticides, this study would be one that our government should be making a huge deal about. Yet, it was quietly published with zero fanfare, no press release and a few weeks before Christmas, when most of us are so busy we scarcely have time to read the paper, never mind a 350-plus-page meta-analysis.

However, anyone who actually reads it can only find serious cause for concern.

- Maureen Kerr is co-chair of Pesticide Free P.E.I.

Organizations: Department of Health, Pesticide Free P.E.I.

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