Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ornamental Pesticide Use

Oakville’s recent revisiting of the cosmetic pesticide issue got me thinking way back to last summer when I made a fairly futile attempt to resurrect this issue at the Region of Halton.

After all spraying your lawn for no good purpose other than so you can say yours is prettier than your neighbour's is hardly a community priority.

And hazardous to our health, right? Look it up.

The Canadian Cancer Society, for example, has called for a ban on the use of pesticides on lawns and gardens as "ornamental use of pesticides has no countervailing health benefit and has the potential to cause harm."

Their position is based on science. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a World Health Organization research body, found that "some substances used in pesticides are classified as known, probable or possible carcinogens."

Another group, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, wants to move towards a legislated end to cosmetic pesticide use within two years. This was recommended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

That Committee says we ought to "give absolute priority to the protection of human health and the environment within any decision making process regarding the regulation of pesticide use."

I can cite other sources.

Halton’ s Answer - Prudent Avoidance

According to the Region of Halton Medical Officer of Health spraying might not be good. But, instead of banning it, he has recommended (and Council has continued to support) a policy of "prudent avoidance." Many Councillors like this strategy because it sounds erudite or scientific, I guess.

A typical "made in Halton solution," or so I thought.

In fact, "prudent avoidance" is an American concept developed in 1989 relating to exposure to Electro Magnetic Fields. Now adapted to pesticide use it is the cornerstone of Health Department policy - that, and the contention that it is really up to local municipalities to enact by-laws that ban or restrict use. That contention was found to be incorrect in a report from Halton’s Legal Department last summer.

The House of Commons Committee again:

"The most effective way to protect human health and the environment is undeniably to prevent the generation of polluting substances in the first place, rather than minimizing or mitigating the risks associated with their use."

Am I wrong or isn’t protecting human health what Public Health is supposed to be about?

The Precautionary Principle

This widely accepted principle argues that "where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation."

This Principle is supported in Canadian law.

A Region wide enforceable by-law would cost a half dollar or so per person per year.

Let’s do it.