B.C. pesticide ban would be a win for health and business

Premier Christy Clark is to be commended for supporting a province-wide ban on lawn and garden pesticides. Not only will this legislation be hugely popular, it will also have a very positive effect on the health of B.C.’s people, environment, and economy. How can we be sure? Because we’ve seen what happens when pesticide regulations are passed in other provinces.

Editor,

Premier Christy Clark is to be commended for supporting a province-wide ban on lawn and garden pesticides. Not only will this legislation be hugely popular, it will also have a very positive effect on the health of B.C.’s people, environment, and economy. How can we be sure? Because we’ve seen what happens when pesticide regulations are passed in other provinces.

The first result, not surprisingly, is a very low pesticide usage rate. Quebec’s pesticide ban took effect in 2003.  By 2007, chemical pesticides were used by just 4% of Quebec households with a lawn or garden. By contrast, in B.C. – which lacks a province-wide ban — the figure was 25%.

When pesticides are taken off store shelves, people are no longer exposed to lawn chemicals which can cause very serious medical problems. Doctors writing in the scientific journal Paediatrics and Child Health found the common weed-killer 2, 4-D “can be persuasively linked to cancers, neurological impairment and reproductive problems.”  When Ontario’s pesticide ban came into effect in 2009, the province removed more than 250 of these toxic products from the market. The benefits to human health are obvious.

The Ontario ban is also improving water quality. The Ministry of Environment studied pesticide concentrations in urban streams before and after the ban came into effect. The study found that, following the law’s introduction, pesticide concentrations were up to 97% lower in some waterways. That’s an extraordinary result and suggests a province-wide ban in B.C. would have similar benefits.

The Ontario ban has also been well-received by lawn care businesses. The firm Environmental Factor – which makes a non-toxic weed inhibitor — had a 400 per cent increase in sales and manufacturing in the ban’s first six months. Business expansion also occurred when pesticides were banned by municipalities. For example, in the five years following passage of a pesticide bylaw in Halifax, the number of landscaping and lawn care companies in that city grew by 53%.

Finally, this legislation is a winner with the public. Polling done in B.C. by Innovative Research Group and released in February, 2011 found support for a pesticide phase-out was over 70%. Perhaps most significantly, the study found support for the phase-out does not differ between rural and urban areas: No matter where they live, the vast majority of British Columbians want an end to toxic lawn products.

We would suggest B.C. model its ban on Ontario’s excellent Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act but go one step further: in addition to lawns and gardens, extend the restrictions to golf-courses. We would urge British Columbians to e-mail the Premier (premier@gov.bc.ca ) today with one simple message: This summer give us the protection from pesticides already enjoyed by millions of other Canadians.

Sincerely, Gideon Forman & Dr. Warren Bell

Gideon Forman is Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (www.cape.ca).

Dr. Warren Bell is Past Founding President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.