Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Precaution on cosmetic pesticides calls for ban

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As a medical doctor, I feel a responsibility not only to improve the health of my individual patients but to help protect the health of our community by protecting the larger environment. As the mother of an eight-year-old boy, I feel that it is important to protect my son from unnecessary exposure to toxic lawn and garden pesticides in the environment.

Six provinces -- Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador -- and 160 municipalities have already implemented a cosmetic pesticide ban. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment has led an extremely successful anti-pesticide campaign across Canada in recent years.

Now, Manitobans, have the opportunity to support a ban on cosmetic lawn and garden pesticides in our province. The Manitoba government has released a discussion paper regarding a potential ban on non-essential pesticides entitled Play it Safe: A Consultation on Cosmetic Lawn Pesticides. The deadline for public consultation is Oct. 1.

Why should we ban cosmetic pesticide use in Manitoba?

Pesticides are toxic chemicals that harm human health and the environment. Pesticides are among the most widely used chemicals in the world and also among the most dangerous to human health. Pesticides for lawn and garden care are a broad range of chemicals that include: herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. They are a leading cause of poisonings here in Canada and have been estimated to account for thousands of deaths each year globally.

The pesticide literature review released by the Ontario College of Family Physicians in 2012, showed "consistent associations between reproductive, respiratory and neurological problems in humans and pesticide exposure." Also, the current body of knowledge suggests a connection between pesticides and cancer.

Cosmetic pesticide use is a public health issue, particularly for children. It is well established that children are at a greater risk from pesticide exposure than adults. Children represent a vulnerable and sensitive group because their bodies and physiological systems are still undergoing substantial growth and development. In addition, children are often more exposed to environmental health risks because of their particular behaviours and activity at each developmental stage.

Since non-essential cosmetic pesticides have the potential to cause harm and have no health benefits, it is prudent to take a precautionary approach. The precautionary principle states that when an activity poses a threat to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even when the cause and effect relationship is not fully established scientifically.

It is unnecessary to use potentially harmful chemicals to maintain beautiful properties. There are safe, natural alternatives and many non-toxic products on the market. Organic lawn care products and practices such as aeration, over seeding and mowing high can help produce healthy green lawns without the use of pesticides.

In 1948, the World Health Organization defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being." Since then, we have come to a better understanding of the place of humans within the global ecosystem. Today, health is a state of complete physical, mental, social and ecological well-being. Ultimately, our health depends upon the health of the ecosystem of which we are a part.

In a world of multiple chemical exposures, we must remove needless risks from cosmetic pesticides. We must protect our health and that of our children and future generations by protecting the health of our planet.

Manitobans deserve the protection from pesticides already enjoyed by millions of other Canadians. I would strongly encourage the public to send a letter to Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh and Health Minister Theresa Oswald asking for a pesticide ban in Manitoba.

Winnipegger Debbie Pollock is member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, whose mandate is to protect human health by protecting the planet.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2012 A9

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