Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Province starts readying ban on lawn pesticides

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THE days of blasting some WeedEx or Roundup on those pesky dandelions appear to be numbered for Manitobans who cherish weed-free lawns.

Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh said Monday the province could see restrictions on harmful cosmetic pesticides next year.

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What form the restrictions take -- he stressed the province is only focused on lawn-care products, not agricultural -- is being studied by his staff.

"Whether the result will be an outright ban or any number of regulatory options will depend on the consultations, our research and what my colleagues then determine," Mackintosh said, after meeting with health and environment groups who support a ban on such products for residential use.

The Selinger government said in January it planned to follow other provinces on restricting potentially harmful over-the-counter pesticides and herbicides. Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have each brought in their own restrictions on these chemicals over the past decade.

"The science appears to indicate that there certainly is a risk," Mackintosh said, adding 47 municipalities in B.C. each have their own restrictions.

"The obvious question is, shouldn't Manitoba children have the same benefits that most other Canadian children enjoy?"

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment says children are most prone to the potential health risks of the cosmetic lawn chemicals, including cancer, learning disabilities, asthma and chronic lung diseases. Pesticides can also be toxic to birds, fish, bees and other beneficial insects.

Environmentalist Anne Lindsey, of Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Manitoba, said the province should impose the toughest restrictions possible.

"They could say we're not going to let them be sold in stores, but we're still going to allow lawn companies go around neighbourhoods and spray your lawns," she said. "Of course, that would not be effective in protecting people's health because whether we choose to have it on our lawn or not, as soon as the neighbours do it, our children are being exposed."

Many larger lawn and garden stores in Winnipeg have already voluntarily pulled these chemicals from their shelves, replacing them with chemical-free, biological products.

The province has also asked for public input on the new measures. More information is on the Conservation Department's website. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 1.

The lawn-care lobby group CropLife says the urban pesticides the industry uses are safe and Health Canada has approved them after a comprehensive scientific review.

While organic pesticides are available, critics argue they tend to cost more and are not as effective.

Brandon has a bylaw restricting cosmetic-pesticide use near schools, daycares and parks. Winnipeg's bylaw only requires lawn-care companies to post warning signs when they apply chemicals.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

The government's

and your options

What the province is considering on the use of cosmetic pesticides:

 

The province could further restrict the sale of pesticides for cosmetic purposes by:

-- Limiting sales to licensed pesticide applicators only;

-- Prohibiting all sales of cosmetic lawn pesticides.

 

The province could further restrict the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes by:

-- Prohibiting the application of home-use cosmetic pesticides;

-- Allowing cosmetic pesticide use as part of integrated pest management;

-- Requiring buffer zones around spray zones;

-- Enhancing signage requirements when pesticides are applied;

-- Only allowing licensed applicators to apply cosmetic pesticides;

-- Focusing regulations on lawns used by infants and young children;

-- Developing restrictions for other turf used by infants and young children.

 

-- Manitoba government

 

Natural alternatives

 

Corn gluten meal: inhibits root formation during germination, preventing weeds from emerging but at the same time adding nitrogen to lawns that are already established. Needs to be applied in the early spring when the snow melts and weeds begin to take hold.

Sarritor: a naturally occurring fungus that will grow into broadleaf weeds such as dandelions and thistles and kill them. Once the weed is gone, the fungus dies.

Healthy lawns: keep weeds at bay naturally through competition, says the Manitoba Eco-Network. Weeds are a sign a lawn isn't a healthy ecosystem, and chemicals just get rid of the weeds, not the problem.

 

-- Manitoba Eco-Network

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2012 A3

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