I recently recieved an email from a concerned citizen who wrote:
As a homeowner and taxpayer in your Ward, I feel strongly that the regulation of pesticides should remain the jurisdiction of the Federal and Provincial governments, and that it has no place on the municipal agenda. In my opinion, the City of Guelph has spent an inordinate amount of taxpayers money and Staff’s time in addressing this issue over the last number of years. Please leave pesticide regulation in the hands of the scientists at Health Canada, who have the expertise and the resources to regulate this issue from a scientific and not an emotional perspective.
Thank You very much for your email, pesticide use within the City of Guelph has indeed been a very long and expensive debate for our local government. This was one of the reasons (whether you agree with the direction or not) that I was firmly resolved that council clearly and definitively take a stand on the issue rather than drag out the debate for another 6 years.
However, you make an excellent point that policy must be based upon hard science from qualified experts rather than out of misguided emotion or political posturing. It was with this perspective that I have spent weeks going over the available literature from a wide range of fields before making an informed decision.
One of the first things I realised was that “scientific research” must be put into perspective with the ideology or political mandate of the sponsoring agency. As an example; anti-pesticide groups reference scientific literature against pesticides while pro-pesticide groups will reference neutral or supporting scientific research.
Health Canada’s mandate is to protect human health within the context of product regulation; “to minimize the risks associated with pest control products, while enabling access to pest management tools.”
This mandate is clearly about managing product regulation while ensuring a reasonable margin of safety rather than the sole purpose of protecting the health of Canadians and the ecosystem we live in. (This is the same Federal department that regulates cigarettes, a product that they admit on their website will kill over 37,000 people this year alone)
The other troubling aspect of Health Canada’s policy making procedure in this regard is its reliance on the ’scientific research’ conducted by the manufacturers of the products in question. While Health Canada purports to base its policy on sound scientific research, the regulatory agency does not specifically reference the scientific literature that it uses in making these recommendations.
By contrast, the College of Family Physicians of Canada mandate includes the maintenance of high standards of medical care, education and maintaining the reputation of excellence of family medicine in the face of an explosion of new clinical discoveries on an annual basis.
As a result of extensive, peer reviewed scientific studies conducted by respected health institutions; the CFPC and the Ontario Chapter have clearly expressed an opinion on the non-essential use of pesticides.
Our review has found evidence of serious harmful effects in several areas including cancer, reproductive effects and impacts on the nervous system. These effects are found in both occupational and home and garden exposures
We believe family physicians need to use a precautionary approach in informing patients about pesticide-related risks to health. This approach calls for precautionary measures to be taken where there is evidence of harm, even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully understood.
We support efforts to reduce exposure to pesticides, such as the Toronto pesticide bylaw, and also support a comprehensive province-wide approach that could include education and legislation.
In the end, I must agree with the 127 other communities in Ontario that the use of pesticides represents a clear danger to the health of the citizens of our community and in particular to the very young… our next generation.
I believe that it is incumbent upon all elected officials, relying upon sound scientific research to act in the best interest of the citizens we represent and take action to protect our community.
- Declaration Backgrounder. 2005 April. Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns. An overview of scientific studies supporting hazards of lawn pesticides.
- Sanborn, Margaret, et al. 2004 April. “Systematic Review of Pesticides Human Health Effects,” The Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP). Toronto, Ontario.
- Glickman, Lawrence, et al. 2004. “Herbicide exposure and the risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 224(8): 1290-1297. (Press Release)
- Porter, Warren. 2004, Spring. “Do Pesticides Affect Learning and Behavior? The neuro-endocrine-immune connection,” Pesticides And You. Beyond Pesticides. 21(4):11-15. (Overview of Dr. Porter’s findings published in Environ Health Perspectives and Toxicology and Industrial Health.)
- Greenlee, Anne, et al. 2004.”Low-Dose Agrochemicals and Lawn-Care Pesticides Induce Developmental Toxicity in Murine Preimplantation Embryos,” Environ Health Perspectives. 112(6):703-709.
- Colt, Joanne, et al. 2004. “Comparison of pesticide levels in Carpet dust and self-reported pest treatment practices in four US sites.” J. of Exposure Analysis and Environ. Epidemiology, 14:74–83.
- Salam, MT, et al. 2004. “Early Life Environmental Risk Factors for Asthma: Findings from the Children’s Health Study.” Environmental Health Perspectives. 112(6): 760.
- Nishioka, Marcia G., et al. 2001.”Distribution of 2,4-D in Air and on Surfaces inside Residences after Lawn Applications: Comparing Exposure Estimates from Various Media for Young Children,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 109(11), November.
- Hardell, Lennart and Mikarl Eriksson. 1999.”A Case-Control Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Exposure to Pesticides,” American Cancer Society.
- Zahm, S. “Mortality study of pesticide applicators and other employees of a lawn care service company.” National Cancer Institute. J. Occup Environ Med. 1997 Nov;39(11):1055-67.
- Nishioka, Marcia G., et al. 1996. “Measuring Transport of Lawn-Applied Herbicide Acids from Turf to Home: Correlation of Dislodgeable 2,4-D Turf Residues with Carpet Dust and Carpet Surface Residues,” Environmental Science & Technology, 30(11): 3313-3320.
- Hayes, Howard M., et al. 1991.”Case-Control Study of Canine Malignant Lymphoma: Positive Association With Dog Owner’s Use of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid Herbicides,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 83:1226-1231.
- Systematic Review of Pesticides Human Health Effects (The Ontario College of Family Physicians, April 23, 2004)
Websites of Interest