Two sides of is­sue

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS HAYES

Strong opin­ions ex­pressed on pro­posed pes­ti­cide ban.


— Nova Sco­tia’s En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment is hear­ing some strong opin­ions on both sides of the is­sue when it comes to a pro­posed ban on the sale and use of non-es­sen­tial lawn-care pes­ti­cides.

Brent Bax­ter, a spokesman for the depart­ment, says it has re­ceived about 500 re­sponses to a dis­cus­sion pa­per and in­vi­ta­tion to Nova Sco­tians that was is­sued last month to con­vey their opin­ions about the pro­posed ban, which would ap­ply to cos­metic pes­ti­cides used only in lawn and turf main­te­nance mainly for weed con­trol or lawn-spe­cific in­sects.

“ There seems to be strong emo­tions both ways but it’s one of those (sit­u­a­tions) where I think peo­ple who have a closer in­ter­est in the is­sue tend to be the ones that re­ply,” he said.

The dead­line for re­sponse is March 7, af­ter which the depart­ment will pre­pare a sum­mary of the pub­lic mood and some rec­om­men­da­tions on the pre­ferred op­tions for the gov­ern­ment, he said.

Leg­is­la­tion could come in the spring, he sug­gested.

In Cape Bre­ton, there are po­lar­ized opin­ions about how danger­ous pes­ti­cides can be and the pro­posed ban on cos­metic use.

Lawn pes­ti­cides in­clude car­cino­gens to which chil­dren are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble, ac­cord­ing to doc­tor Chris Mil­burn.

“I think the fact we are caus­ing can­cer in peo­ple should be more than enough to say I can stand a dan­de­lion or two on my lawn to re­duce the risk of can­cer for the kids in the neigh­bour­hood,” says Mil­burn, an emer­gency room doc­tor who is also a mem­ber of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Physi­cians for the En­vi­ron­ment.

Chil­dren do a lot of grow­ing, which puts them at greater risk for car­cino­gens that in­ter­act with hu­man DNA, and they are at higher risk of ex­po­sure to chem­i­cals in lawns just by the na­ture of child­like ac­tiv­i­ties, he said

Mil­burn be­lieves, based partly on his years as a fam­ily doc­tor, that some peo­ple are more sen­si­tive to the chem­i­cals in pes­ti­cides, al­though he says it’s a harder ar­gu­ment to prove.

He has al­ready shared his views about cos­metic use of pes­ti­cides with the Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ment.

Lawn-care com­pa­nies us­ing pes­ti­cides con­tend that a ban would put them put of busi­ness but he knows a com­pany in On­tario that used only or­ganic meth­ods that had to ex­pand to keep up with the de­mand, said Mil­burn

Mil­burn has put a covenant against the use of pes­ti­cides on lots he has for sale in Syd­ney.

Lawn-care pro­fes­sional Al­lan MacKay, who owns a Weed Man busi­ness in Cape Bre­ton, calls the pro­posed pro­vin­cial ban “ridicu­lous.”

“As far as chem­i­cals go, there are more chem­i­cals un­der your sink than what we spray, and our stuff is all sprayed by pro­fes­sion­als who know how to mix it prop­erly,” said MacKay, who plans to ac­cept the prov­ince’s in­vi­ta­tion to share his opin­ion.

“As far as I am con­cerned, it is crazy. I think the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has enough prob­lems without wor­ry­ing about a few chem­i­cals that are get­ting sprayed around.”

Lawn pes­ti­cides can be danger­ous if not used prop­erly, he said.

“As far as an ap­pli­ca­tor like my guy who is pro­fes­sional, no, this stuff doesn’t hurt you.”

The ban would put a lot of peo­ple in his in­dus­try out of work and could spell the end for his com­pany, he said.

“ You have to look at both sides of the story and I don’t think the gov­ern­ment is.”

Last month, the pro­vin­cial En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment is­sued a dis­cus­sion pa­per en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to ex­press their opin­ions about its pro­posed ban on cos­metic use of pes­ti­cides used for lawn and turf main­te­nance.

The dis­cus­sion pa­per says in the de­bate that oc­curs in so­ci­ety, many peo­ple on one side claim there are ad­verse health ef­fects, that pes­ti­cides aren’t nec­es­sary and we can grow healthy lawns without them. Peo­ple on the other side of the is­sue say there isn’t enough sci­en­tific ev­i­dence to sup­port a ban and Health Canada’s pest man­age­ment reg­u­la­tory agency ap­proves pes­ti­cides for use.

The au­thors of Nova Sco­tia’s dis­cus­sion pa­per say, how­ever, that Health Canada also rec­om­mends lim­it­ing their use and that’s why the prov­ince is propos­ing a ban on cos­metic use.

The dis­cus­sion pa­per urges peo­ple to grow stronger lawns us­ing hardier grass species na­tive to our cli­mate over at least 15 cms of good soil, use biopes­ti­cides made from nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als such as an­i­mals, plants, bac­te­ria and min­er­als or try good old-fash- ioned weed­ing.

Nova Sco­tia’s dis­cus­sion pa­per notes that Health Canada reg­u­lates pes­ti­cides in this coun­try reg­is­ter­ing pest con­trol prod­ucts, re-eval­u­at­ing reg­is­tered prod­ucts, and set­ting max­i­mum residue lim­its.

Be­fore it will reg­is­ter a pest con­trol prod­uct, Health Canada eval­u­ates sci­en­tific data sub­mit­ted by the pes­ti­cide com­pany to en­sure that the pes­ti­cide is an ac­cept­able health and en­vi­ron­men­tal risk, the dis­cus­sion pa­per notes.

“Be­fore a pes­ti­cide is al­lowed to be used or sold in Canada, it must un­dergo a rig­or­ous sci­en­tific as­sess­ment process, which pro­vides rea­son­able cer­tainty that no harm, in­clud­ing chronic ef­fects such as can­cer, will oc­cur when pes­ti­cides are used ac­cord­ing to la­bel di­rec­tions,” Health Canada said in an email to the Post.

Gary O’Toole, the di­rec­tor of en­vi­ron­men­tal health for the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s Health Pro­mo­tion and Pro­tec­tion Depart­ment, said that pes­ti­cides are not good for hu­man health.

“I think gen­er­ally it’s safe to say that sci­ence sup­ports that th­ese chem­i­cals are not good for your health, there are a lot of car­cino- gens that are used in th­ese chem­i­cals in th­ese cos­metic pes­ti­cides. So the sci­ence is there to sup­port that, for sure,” he said.

O’Toole says his depart­ment sup­ports the pro­posed ban on cos­metic use of pes­ti­cides be­cause of that sci­en­tific ev­i­dence and be­cause the chem­i­cals are not nec­es­sary.

Bax­ter was also asked if the prov­ince con­sider the pes­ti­cides to be car­cino­genic.

“ Well, that’s al­ways the po­ten­tial,” he said. “ That’s the po­ten­tial with a lot of things we use in our everyday life so the more we can re­duce some of th­ese things, prob­a­bly the bet­ter off we will be.

“ We don’t have any ev­i­dence of that. I mean, it’s cer­tainly some­thing we are work­ing with and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment does con­tin­u­ously look at sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture and that sort of thing on th­ese ma­te­ri­als and if they have con­cerns, they re-ex­am­ine them or even pull them off the mar­ket. ”To see the dis­cus­sion pa­per and find out how to share your thoughts on the pro­posed ban with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, go to www. gov. ns. ca/ nse/ pests/ dis­cussing.pes­ti­cides.asp.

Steve Wad­den - Cape Bre­ton Post

Dr. Chris Mil­burn and his dog Hud­son walk through an area of land that he is de­vel­op­ing in Syd­ney, Thurs­day. Mil­burn has put a covenant against the use of pes­ti­cides on lots of land he has for sale.

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