The 101 on Tordon 101 by Jon Parsons
It’s time for the provincial government to end its chemical romance
The Western star:
Published on July 29, 2014
Aragorne Lomond poses for a photo in a pesticide-free garden at Blanche Brook Park in Stephenville.
Star photo by Frank Gale
Bob Diamond agrees. He’s co-chair of the Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides-Newfoundland and Labrador (CAP-NL), which has released a position paper on pesticides and other toxic substances.
“There are some beautiful gardens here,” he said while standing next to some of the beds of flowers and shrubs.
He said the paper documents the dangers of pesticides and other toxic substances, still widely used in Newfoundland and Labrador, and makes recommendations to better protect public and environmental health from exposures to the substances outlined.
It’s the organization’s wish that the provincial government will create tighter legislation on the use of several chemicals. These are known or suspected carcinogens or endocrine disruptors to which citizens of the province are exposed in their daily lives.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have the highest rates of cancer in Canada, and Diamond said this is simply unacceptable when there are healthier alternatives available than the use of these toxic substances.
CAP-NL is particularly concerned about exposures to polyaromatic hydrocarbons, plasticizers, flame retardants, non-stick chemicals, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls and chlorinated solvents.
The position paper asks that Tordon 101, currently used along highway and utility line corridors, be banned in the province and be replaced by environmentally sustainable alternatives.
The group is also asking that the provincial government follow suit with Nova Scotia and Ontario and enact a comprehensive ban on pesticides, including a “white list” of allowable pesticides. That ban would include green spaces such as sports fields, recreation areas and golf courses.
The organization is asking government to enact a provincial program informing the public of the dangers of exposure to dangerous pesticides and other toxic substances, and alternatives to their use.
The paper also suggests that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) be banned in the province due to what the coalition claims are the toxic, polluting nature of chemicals used and significant threats posed to the environment and to water and human health.
Diamond said the coalition has requested a meeting with the provincial Health and Environment ministers.
Articles from Newfoundland and Labrador:
“Why Pesticides Need to Be Banned”
July 6, 2011, The Western Star
Across Canada almost 70 per cent of the population supports pesticide bans — according to multiple surveys in several provinces. For once I’m in the majority! I’ll admit it, I’m incredibly biased on this topic. Putting aside any concerns about pesticide use, health and environmental concerns, the fact is I just don’t “get” grass.
- Grass — at least on lawns — is pretty much a useless waste of soil. On sweeping plains, yes, grass is great at preventing soil erosion. And yes, animals graze on grass. But unless you’ve got a couple of goats in your yard — which is actually a dream of mine — you don’t need grass.
Given the fact that Newfoundland has approximately a three-day supply of food should our supply lines be cut off — due to zombie invasion or natural disaster — I think dandelions are much more valuable.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” What are dandelion’s virtues? Humans can eat dandelions. We cannot eat grass. In terms of survival, grass is worthless, while many of the plants we consider lawn invaders are not.
But I know that argument won’t sway anyone. And the fact is people use pesticides on vegetables, herbs and flower beds as well. But they really aren’t necessary for domestic homeowner’s use.
As Tom Stewart, a father of three in Corner Brook, reminds us, there are many natural ways to combat pests in the garden. He recommends controlling insects with a simple soap spray or using pyrethrum spray — made from chrysanthemum flower heads — as an effective counter-measure.
And he also recommends that we “vary the plant types in a garden. Sometimes one plant does away with pests to others. Slugs and earwigs can be controlled with baited traps.”
And let’s admit it: the ol’ slug control trap of a bowl of beer in the garden is only upsetting because of the wasted beer — not the possible pollutants you’re adding to your environment. As for soap sprays — if you want to keep it even more natural, you can use a saponin to make your spray — plants such as soapwort or soapnuts are an economical and environmentally friendly alternative.
Some people prefer to attack weeds the old-fashioned way. Emma, a mother of two in Maryland, declares pesticide usage “barbaric.” She continues by saying: “I spend most of my life on my knees weeding and ruining my nails.” And Stephen, a father of two in the UK, agrees: “there’s nothing I can’t do with a trowel.”
Every kid in our neighbourhood is fascinated with our weed plucking claw. It’s like Tom Sawyer and the whitewashed fence — they think it’s fun to weed!
But there are those, like SheriLee, a mom of one in St. John’s, who swear by occasional pesticide use.
“I spent a lot of money on my yard,” she writes. “And I don’t want other people’s neglect to ruin mine.”
She goes on to question whether the noted health risks associated with pesticides are really that bad, especially when compared with all the other carcinogens we consume.
For me, it’s a no-brainer. The three largest identified risks from pesticides are their carcinogenic nature, their hormone disruption potential, and the neuro-toxicity. Seeing as our son has neurofibromatosis and faces risks in all those areas already, we will not increase his risk load.
Frankly, I have a hard time not taking it personally when neighbours use pesticides.
Some — usually those associated with the industries that produce these pesticides — argue that the risks are not proven nor well known enough to support a domestic, cosmetic ban. Meanwhile, what they won’t tell you is that the safety is not proven or well documented either.
According to Dr. Cathy Vakil, who co-authored a scientific review of 265 published reports looking at human health effects of pesticides, “if these chemicals are harmful, they should be banned; if they are safe they can be used widely and freely without restriction. However, determining whether a chemical is harmful or not is not always easy or straightforward.”
In her article, “Pesticides and your health — a family physician’s perspective,” Dr. Vakil acknowledges that it’s difficult to draw unequivocal conclusions from many of the population-based studies done on pesticide use. However, she goes on to identify several key areas where increased risks from pesticide exposure are statistical significant.
She concludes by saying: “As a doctor, it’s my role as health advocate to advise my patients to reduce exposure to all pesticides whenever possible, and to promote the passage of legislation banning non-essential pesticide use and sale. This would protect especially vulnerable populations such as women and men considering pregnancy, pregnant women, infants and children.”
It’s true that our consumer-driven society is saturated with any number of potentially dangerous chemicals. However, some are easier to rid ourselves of than others. Several provinces in Canada have already instituted pesticide bans and even industry-insiders admit that the economic fallout to the producers is not very significant as they deal mostly with large-scale agricultural consumers.
The question, then, that we need to ask ourselves is what’s more important: a perfectly grassy lawn, or your neighbour’s unborn child?
Dara Squires, Corner Brook, NL
“Another Step for Pesticide Bans”
The Telegram, June 20, 2011
In 2008, DowAgroSciences, an American pesticide manufacturer, challenged the Government of Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement for allowing the province of Quebec to ban a popular herbicide called 2,4-D.
The corporation stated the prohibition violated Chapter 11 of NAFTA.
It asked for $2 million in damages or lost revenues.
Three years later, the verdict is in and it holds great promise for the rest of Canada.
Quebec is allowed to uphold its pesticide ban and the corporation was awarded no financial compensation.
However, as part of the settlement, the government of Quebec had to issue a statement saying the province agreed with Health Canada: that the product was safe when used according to the label directions.
Currently, five provinces have non-essential pesticide bans in place, and the Christy Clark government in British Columbia is also committed to joining them.
It seems that Newfoundland and Labrador may be the last place in Canada to take this crucial step to protect people from unnecessary chemical exposure.
At least we now know a province has the right to ban a harmful chemical and that corporations will knowingly waste hundreds of thousands of dollars by challenging this right in court.
On hearing the results the federal Trade minister said the case proves governments have the right to allow or ban any products they want, regardless of which country manufactures them.
Darcie Cohen, St. John’s
“Lobby For An Anti-Pesticide Law”
Published on May 13, 2011
The grandchildren will soon be running in with dandelion bouquets for Nanny. I just have to be sure that they come from our property and that the little ones don’t run onto lawns with miniscule pesticide warning signs.
These signs are merely a token gesture towards compliance with the law. No one is allowed to spray poisons when the wind is more than 15 km/h, or 24 hours after a rain or when rain is forecast within 24 hours. Adequate notice has to be given to adjacent property owners. These rules are broken routinely by lawn care companies. In any case, little children and pets, those most in danger from pesticides, cannot read the warnings.
As noted by Dr. Ian Simpson in a recent letter, this province is poised to enact legislation regarding lawn chemicals. Let’s hope they bring in meaningful law and not some “integrated pest management” nonsense as chemical companies are pressuring them to do. Integrated pest management allows the use of poisons for cosmetic lawn care, so no change will take place.
If you are more interested in health and safety than in eradicating dandelions, tell your MHA to vote for strong anti-pesticide legislation and against integrated pest management.
Donald Gale, Stephenville
Published on April 27, 2011:
Dear Editor: I would like to send an Easter bouquet of thanks to the Ontario Minister of the Environment John Wilkinson for his recent good news.
Wilkinson said last week that pesticide levels in the 19 urban streams that are monitored by Ontario Department of Environment continue to drop.
Minister Wilkinson said last Wednesday that since 250 products were removed from store shelves in 2009, the concentration of the most common pesticides had dropped, including 2,4-D, one of the most common pesticides used in urban areas.
In fact the Ontario environment studies show that all four of the most commonly used pesticides show a very large drop in concentration in urban streams — from 78 per cent to 97 per cent reduction.
The CBC reported that Wilkinson said “some additional products will no longer be readily accessible on store shelves.”
There has been some opposition to the ban on 2,4-D but the Ontario government is standing by its decision saying the people’s health is at risk.
So far six Canadian provinces — Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Albert have restricted the use of cosmetic pesticides; and the current premier of British Columbia has made it clear that legislation in her province is a priority for her.
What a shame that it is taking so long for our Newfoundland and Labrador government to do the same thing, and bring legislation to our province.
The ministers of Health and the Environment have been aware of the science and health studies for a long time.
Minister Ross Wiseman, our minister of Environment, having recently met with concerned citizens, is doing due diligence and so no decision us likely in the immediate future.
But he has all the necessary information two years ago when he was minister of Health, so a decision on legislating pesticides should not be allowed to yet again be postponed indefinitely.
Easter tells us that spring is here, and soon we will see the warning signs on the lawns advising us to keep children and pets away fro the poison.
Wouldn’t it be a lovely Easter present from our government to our citizens, to be told that legislation is coming soon, just before the spray season?
Easter celebrates the return of life after the death of winter. Come on ministers Wiseman and Kennedy, let’s all celebrate life, not death.
- Ian Simpson, Humber Village
April 2, 2011:
The St. John’s Telegram
“Time for a cosmetic pesticide ban”
Why is it taking so long for our provincial government to make a decision regarding banning the sale and use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes?
Close to 24 million Canadians, or 79.6 per cent of Canada’s total population, are presently benefiting from enhanced protection from unwanted exposure to synthetic lawn and garden pesticides.
This figure includes the best provincial protection provided under Ontario’s Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act, 2008 and Quebec’s 2003 Pesticide Management Code as well as Nova Scotia’s, New Brunswick’s and P.E.I.’s Pesticide Acts.
Our former premier, Danny Williams, did an excellent job in promoting Newfoundland and Labrador as being a have province — no longer a poor cousin to the rest of Canada. However, on the issue of controlling and regulating environmental contaminants such as pesticides, we are lagging far behind nationally.
Back in 2003, the province’s Wellness Advisory Council prepared and submitted recommendations to the Minister of Health and Community Services which led to the development of the government policy document Achieving Health and Wellness: Provincial Wellness Plan. One of the eight Wellness Priorities in this plan was to create and maintain “environments which promote good public health” involving “those aspects of human health and disease that are determined by physical, chemical and biological factors in the environment such as contaminants in food, air, soil and water.”
Many seeking ban
Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, the Cancer Society, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and other organizations had been asking the former minister of Environment and Conservation, Charlene Johnson, for a ban since 2009.
However, this is far from a relatively new issue.
Over the past 12 years there have been many requests to our provincial health and environment ministers from health and environmental organizations and from individual citizens asking for improved legislation and regulation of pesticides.
Over a month ago, Environment Minister Ross Wiseman stated publicly that: “I don’t want to put a day or a week on it, but I appreciate the length of time this has been in the public domain and discussed.” Wiseman added: “I appreciate, too, that there’s an upcoming summer, a time when these pesticides are used.”
He also said he “hopes to bring forward a recommendation to cabinet in the very near future.”
Well the days, weeks, months and years are passing by and it looks like another spring and summer will soon be upon us when we — and our children, grandchildren and pets — will again be exposed to cosmetic pesticide contaminants in food, air, soil and water.
But maybe, hopefully, wishfully the ministers of Health and Environment are now working together on this issue and they will introduce in this session of the House new legislation similar to or better than Ontario’s.
This would also be a start to working on a priority in the provincial government’s Wellness Plan in promoting wellness through better protecting our environment, and us, from exposure to toxic pesticides.
Bob Diamond writes from Stephenville.
April 2, 2011:
The St. John’s Telegram
“More Support For a Ban”
As a city councillor to the residents of our capital city, St. John’s, and as an active committee member of the Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides Newfoundland and Labrador, I feel compelled to promote the legislation of a ban on the use of nonessential pesticides in our province.
The statistics are regularly discussed in the public forum and there is incredible support for this initiative.
The ban of non-essential pesticides has been enacted in Ontario, Quebec and all Maritime provinces, as the documented hazards of these chemicals are well known.
Several polls have been conducted and they indicate approximately 70 per cent public support for a cosmetic pesticide ban to be enacted in our province.
Research also states that lawn care industries have not suffered as a result of this health-care initiative.
This causes me to ask why this province is taking so long to address what other provinces, national lawn care corporations and national health associations have already recognized as an essential step to human, animal and environmental health?
From the city’s perspective, we have been actively advising the public to reject the use of non-essential pesticides and our St. John’s city parks have eliminated their use for many years.
Last year, with the support of city council, I put forward a resolution to indicate the city’s desire to create a ban on cosmetic pesticides for lawn care.
As well, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and the City of Mount Pearl have been very active in requesting legislation from the province on this issue. To date, we have not had a clear response from the province.
Representing this beautiful province is a privilege and with it comes a great deal of responsibility to the health and well-being of our citizens and our environment.
Let’s not be a province that lags behind on important issues such as this.
I am hopeful that the government will show real leadership before the 2011 spray season begins, as I continue to do in the capital city, by addressing the risks involved in continuing to allow the use of these non-essential pesticides in our province.
Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary
31 July 2007
Letter published in the Telegram Forum:
I am commenting, respectfully, on His Worship Andy Wells’ well-researched letter titled “Wangersky’s junk science” in the Sunday Telegram of 29 July 2007.
On one side there are the chemical and horticulture industries, apparently supported by our City Council, saying it is OK, and on the other side there are the environmentalists and medical fraternity saying it is not OK. Both support their arguments convincingly.
It appears to me that the pro and con arguments cancel each other out, and we are left with a “don’t know”. If the effects of a course of action are not known it would seem sensible not to do it unless you really must. As I understand it this is the ‘precautionary principle’, as interpreted by Environment Canada, whereby the absence of full scientific certainty should not prevent a course of action (as in spraying pesticides), but only “….. when faced with the threat of serious or irreversible harm.” It is difficult to think of lawn dandelions being a serious threat, and a span-worm as capable of causing irreversible harm (although the creatures are a bit sticky when they land on your head).
Mayor Wells broadens the debate to include chemicals used in agribusiness. These no doubt have done much to improve the amount and quality of food available around the world, including those rows of perfect-looking vegetables seen in our many supermarkets. However I expect to be told that there are downsides with the application of these products.
Even broader is Mayor Wells’ reference to the ceasation of DDT spraying and incidence of malaria. Here I take comfort in the anti-malaria drugs now being made available to developing countries, for example the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and France’s recent donation of $400,000 worth of anti-malaria drugs to Liberia as reported by the United Nations News Service on 2 July 2007.
So with the perspective of world hunger and disease what matters if we spread a little harmful/not harmful stuff on our own small gardens? Maybe it matters because if there is doubt we are simply experimenting on ourselves and our children.
Incidentally, a green and pleasant front and back yard is possible without manufactured herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, and with very little watering – see your local horticulturist……….
Animal Behaviourist Bill Motevechi’s take on Pesticide use on Newfoundland highways: Birds I View 131 – Developer’s Paradise, 2011
“When it comes to Pesticides, who are you going to believe?” by Judie Squires, 2010