I live in British Columbia, Canada. It’s a beautiful place, with a progressive bent, and a pretty good environmental record. For example, in 2008 our province was the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce a carbon tax for consumers, aimed at reducing our carbon consumption. Regardless of how you feel about the tax (and, let’s face it, intelligent and informed economists and environmentalists disagree on how best to regulate carbon footprint), the point is that our province has taken some leadership in this area. So I was extremely disappointed to get an email in my inbox containing a report from the province’s Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides.
Before I go any further, I’ll give you a bit of background information. In 2010 the Canadian Cancer Society proposed a ban on the use of cosmetic pesticides here in British Columbia. They did this because they felt that there is a clear link between pesticide use and cancer. Some physician groups agree, including the Ontario College of Family Physicians. They conducted a comprehensive literature review in 2004, and as a result they strongly recommend that people reduce their exposure to pesticides wherever possible. Their report identifies pregnant women and children as being at particular risk.
Here in Canada, six provinces have already banned cosmetic pesticides. Ontario, which introduced their ban on Earth Day in 2009, has some of the strongest regulations in the country. Nova Scotia stands alongside them. Quebec was the first to introduce a ban in 2003, and New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Alberta have bans as well. In British Columbia, 40 municipalities have bylaws banning the use of cosmetic pesticides. However, municipal regulations only cover residential and municipal lands. Also, municipalities cannot ban pesticide sales. This is why the Union of BC Municipalities called for a province-wide ban.
In response to the Canadian Cancer Society’s proposed legislation and the Union of BC Municipalities we’ve been going through a review process. I participated in an online survey some time ago. Many other people did as well. And just last week, the report was released, which is why I got that email in my inbox. You can read the short version here.
The full report makes 17 recommendations, mostly centred around creating measures to reduce pesticide use through regulations and education. This will create some additional hassles if you want to use pesticides on your lawn, but you will still be able to use them. Here’s a quote from the press release:
“Our recommendations are designed to promote the safer use of pesticides for lawn and garden care. But the majority of the committee does not think the scientific evidence, at this time, warrants an outright ban,” explained committee chair Bill Bennett.
I am disappointed in my province. So are our top health groups. Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Mike de Jong have both expressed support for a provincial ban on cosmetic pesticide use. I was hoping that the committee would answer the call, and do the right thing.
As a mother, I do not want my children exposed to pesticides for the sake of a nicer lawn or driveway. Sure, weeds and bugs are a nuisance. But where do our priorities actually lie? Is a pretty yard really more important than our health, and our children’s health? I don’t think it is. I can control what happens in my yard, but I have no control over what my neighbours do. This is why we need laws protecting public safety, and it’s why I think we need a ban on cosmetic pesticides. I would like to see my provincial government – and all governments, really – taking leadership and enacting legislation to protect the families they represent.
What do you think? Are you comfortable with the idea that your neighbour could be using pesticides in their yard for purely cosmetic purposes? I’d love to hear your thoughts on pesticides, and how best to reduce exposure.