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Pesticide Alert!!

 

Hazards of pesticides

The sources of pesticides are many - pesticides can be inorganic or organic.  Organic-based pesticides can be composed of synthetic or natural substances or of micro-organisms.

On this page, when we talk about 'pesticides' we're talking about synthetic pesticides.  Promoted as quick and easy solutions for pest problems, synthetic pesticides have been used casually and with little regard for long term consequences. There is a growing body of research and evidence showing that pesticides can and do adversely effect human health. They have been linked to health problems such as cancer, childhood sarcoma, nerve damage, sterility, birth defects, and a whole host of more "minor" health problems. Individuals most at risk are young babies and children, pregnant women, the elderly and individuals with respiratory problems.  Children are particularly vulnerable because their skin absorbs more pesticide than adult skin.  Their immune and detoxification systems are developing and therefore are more susceptible to damage.  Pesticide from sprayed lawns can be transferred into your home simply by walking from one place to another.  It can then remain there for years.  Traces of pesticides can be found in the body fat of virtually everyone and can remain toxic for 50 to 100 years or more.

Here are a few organizations offering their research reports and articles which detail the hazards.

Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning National Cancer Institute, National Academy of Science, San Francisco, U.S.
Real Alternatives to Toxins in the Environment (RATE) Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Toxic Alert- Poison In The Grass: The Hazards And Consequences Of Lawn Pesticides
StopCancer.org  Prevent cancer by fighting pollution

Research articles health and pesticides The Ontario College of Family Physicians

Sierra Club Pesticides
Making your life toxic-free World Wildlife Fund
The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) a coalition of US. state attorneys general and more than 180 environmental groups fighting to change the federal law so that pesticide labels reveal all ingredients. Provides thought-provoking health and environment studies.
Panna Resources Studies regarding pesticide health risks 

Current pesticides on the market

The use of toxic pesticides is still regularly advocated in countless mainstream gardening flyers and stores, with no warnings of accompanying health risks. Information on health and environmental effects of the active ingredients can be found in numerous sources, such as information binders in our local library, numerous books and websites.

Pesticide Information Project by Extension Toxicology Network
Right to Know Hazardous Materials Fact Sheet by New Jersey  Department of Health
Basic Guide to Pesticides: Their Characteristics and Hazards

On April 3, 2003, Quebec's Pesticide Management Code came into force. This regulation aims to limit the harmful effects of pesticides on human health – especially on the health of children – and on the environment.  It  sets strict standards to control the use and sale of pesticides. Here are some of the key  pesticide sale rules for Quebec:

  • it is prohibited to sell fertilizer-pesticide mixtures and mixed packages (e.g. herbicide and insecticide);
  • it is prohibited to display products intended for domestic use in a way which makes these products accessible to the public;
  • it is prohibited to sell certain pesticides intended for domestic use;

The list of active ingredients now prohibited for lawn maintenance purposes now includes:

  • insecticides: Carbaril, Dicofol, Malathion 
  • herbicides: 2,4-D (all chemical forms),  Chlorthal dimethyl, MCPA (all chemical forms), Mecoprop (all chemical forms)
  • fungicides: Benomyl, Captan, Chlorothalonil, Iprodione, Quintozene, Thiophanate-methyl

The Pesticide Code of Quebec also lists active pesticide ingredients currently deemed acceptable for use in and around daycares and  primary and secondary schools:

  • Insecticides: Acetamiprid, Boric acid, Borax, Silica dioxide (diatomaceous earth), Methoprene, Disodium octaborate tetrahydrate, Ferric phosphate, Insecticidal soap, Spinosad
  • Herbicides: Acetic acid, Conjugated decanoic and pelargonic acid, Herbicidal soap
  • Fungicides: Sulfur, Calcium sulphide or calcium polysulphide
  • Biopesticides: Active ingredients approved by the federal government

As members of public, if you see that prohibited products are being sold in stores, or that a red sign indicating that pesticides have been used in these protected areas, to lodge a complaint, please call (418) 521-3830 or 1 800 561-1616, choose language of choice, then dial 0 for information for your local Environment centre for complaints.  You can also e-mail to  info@mddep.gouv.qc.ca or, you can find the Environment Office in your area at: http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/ministere/rejoindr/adr_reg.htm

The highlights of the Pesticide Code of Quebec can be found at: http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/pesticides/permis-en/code-gestion-en/index.htm

Products used by lawncare companies 

Some individuals and many lawn care companies still use products with toxic ingredients,  assuming that, since these products are legal, they must be "safe." Unfortunately the toxicity information that exists is not adequately communicated to consumers. Beware of the following terms still often used either on packaging or by lawn companies to reassure an unsuspecting client while selling toxic pesticide solutions.

IF IT'S LABELLED... IT REALLY MEANS ...
CARBON-BASED

that some carbon-based ingredients were added to the toxic pesticide mixture.

ORGANIC

same as above

INERT INGREDIENTS

that any ingredient in a pesticide product other than the active ingredient. Inerts are added to perform a variety of functions, including dissolving a pesticide, helping it stick to its target or increasing the pesticide's efficacy in some way. Active ingredients are defined as chemicals which "prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate any pest." Laws require that active ingredients be listed on the label, but inerts -- which can comprise up to 99% of the product -- may remain secret. This does not mean that these ingredients or chemicals are inactive. An EPA study of 1,200 inert ingredients found that 122 could cause cancer, birth defects, neurological disorders or other health problems. Many inert chemicals remain untested. See the following articles:

"Toxic Secrets: 'Inert' Ingredients in Pesticides", 1987-1997, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides 

Toxic Fraud: Deceptive Advertising by Pest Control Companies", Californian's for Pesticide Reform  

"Unlisted "Inert" Ingredients May Pose Serious Health Risks ", 2000 office of the Attorney General, NY State, 2000

Future of the pesticide industry

There is a powerful economic incentive for large chemical companies to promote pesticides. In 1987 the companies ranked by pesticide sales include: DuPont - $510 million, Monsanto - $480 million, ICI - $460 million, Ciba Geigy $450 million1. This, today, is considered a growth "toxic" industry.

1Rea, William J., 1996, Pesticides. Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine 6, 55-124.

There is a better way!

So, you still want a green weed-free lawn and no spiders in the house?   Gardening, landscaping and pest control are technically and economically possible without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.  There are effective and organic alternatives to chemical pesticides.  See our Organic Gardening and Organic Lawn Care pages for ideas and pointers.  They may not be instant solutions but they will certainly be healthier for you, your family and your pets.

For a list of active pesticide ingredients currently accepted on lawns or around school buildings by the new Pesticides Management Act of Quebec, check out http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/pesticides/permis-en/code-gestion-en/index.htm.

You can also speak to the Beaconsfield Public Works Department at (514)428-4500 for some alternative ideas.  

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Beaconsfield pesticide bylaw

On Monday May 3rd 2004, the City of Montréal passed Bylaw 04-041 concerning pesticide use.  The following evening, May 4th 2004, the Borough of Beaconsfield-Baie d'Urfé voted to adopt this bylaw, effective May 7th 2004 with further restrictions.  

Here are the resulting detailed documents:

The Beaconsfield-Baie d’Urfé Borough also provides a short summary of the related exceptions and permits. These are:

Note that the borough of Beaconsfield-Baie d'Urfé demerged into 2 separate cities at the end of 2004.

 

You, your neighbour and pesticides ...

You suddenly realize that your neighbour is not respecting Beaconsfield's bylaw on pesticide use.  What can you do to change this?

Sometimes we forget that most of our neighbour-related problems can be solved over a glass of wine or a good cup of coffee.  Do not hesitate to meet your neighbour and ask why he or she is using pesticides. Perhaps you can suggests alternate solutions for lawn care and organic gardening.  Good relations with your neighbours are important, but when your health is at risk, it's time to take action!

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