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Oakville Residents Plead For
For Ban Of Cosmetic Pesticides
Julio Catani & Tania Orton
March 25, 2001
Presentation to Oakville City Council

Editor's Note: In an ongoing fight to ban cosmetic-use pesticides, grassroots organizations across the country are battling with their municipalities to enact bylaws protecting the health of residents, especially children. Recently, the Oakville groups "Gardens Off Drugs" and "Oakvillegreen Conservation Association joined forces with local members of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) to present their arguments in favour of such a bylaw to the local city council. The following is a transcript of their presentation. They strongly recommend that other groups freely borrow from this transcript and make similar presentations to their own councils.

Presentation to Council

Chairman Joyce Savoline and Councillors, I am Julio Catani and I represent CAW Halton-Peel Regional Environment Council, I am also speaking on behalf of two grassroots groups, Oakvillegreen Conservation Association and Gardens off Drugs.

We are fortunate to live in one of the healthiest nations in the world, the second largest country, renowned for its rich biodiversity and ecosystems. If this legacy is to be preserved and passed on to future generations, we Canadians must take action to curb the use of pesticides and harmful chemicals. The protection of not only our health, but also the health of our children, and our environment must be paramount.

"All evidence suggests that human infants and children are much more susceptible to the effects of pesticides than other animal species"

Pesticides are effective in killing pests through their neurotoxic effects. Pesticides are known to play a role in a variety of diseases and development abnormalities such as cancer, childhood leukemia, reduced fertility, damaged thyroid and pituitary glands, lowered immunity and behavioural systems as well as neurological systems.

Studies of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides, show that each of these compounds is even more toxic to the newborn than to the adult. Infants are particularly susceptible to the effects of pesticides because their systems and immature livers can not detoxify these compounds. We cannot predict the risks of exposing children on the basis of adult evidence, nor is the use of animal testing sufficient for predicting human risk. Risk assessment must be based on human risk.

All evidence suggests that human infants and children are much more susceptible to the effects of pesticides than other animal species. There are reports of paediatric cases of neurotoxic effects such as seizures after skin exposure to some pesticides. Animal studies show a variety of ill effects of pesticides on the immune system, including decreased antibody formation by as much as 70% after exposure. As well, a number of studies have found the connection between brain cancers, soft-tissue sarcomas and pesticides. Furthermore, many pesticides are capable of interfering with the proper functioning of estrogen, androgen and thyroid hormones in humans and in animals. These pesticides are neurotoxic to humans and animals because their mechanism is designed to target the insect nervous system. Neurotoxicity symptoms in humans vary from tremors, nausea and weakness in low doses to paralysis and even death in high doses. Exposure to neurotoxic pesticides is also shown to cause impaired development in children, behavioural abnormalities and Parkinsonís disease.

It is our understanding that over the last few years, the municipalities of Halton Region have cut back on pesticide use on public lands. In fact, we've read some of the comments made by Dr. Robert Nosal Commissioner & Medical Officer of Health in Halton Region. In his report #MO-41-00, dated June 16, 2000, he states that, "Although medical research is not conclusive, it clearly indicates that we need to be concerned with the use of pesticides. There is sufficient evidence to warrant a policy of prudent avoidance." He concludes by saying, "Municipalities should adopt policies to minimize the use of pesticides on municipal lands. Whenever feasible, alternatives to use of pesticides should be used.

We applaud Dr. Nosal and the Region's efforts and we believe you have made a very positive first step towards the eventual elimination of the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes in Halton Region.

However, we believe that there is still an enormous problem with the private sector and its attitude toward pesticide use. As a result of this attitude, we would like to take this opportunity to request of the Regional Council, in order to protect the health and safety of our community, that it adopt the policy of NOT permitting the use of pesticides on private and public lands for cosmetic purposes.

"why we are CONTINUING to take such risks with our health for the sake of green lawns?"

As you can clearly see when you read the package of research documents that we have given each of you, ongoing studies on pesticides are not reassuring to say the least, and we must persist in asking, " why we are CONTINUING to take such risks with our health for the sake of green lawns? In addition to the risks that we take with our own lives and health, our need for perfectly manicured lawns results in the destruction of other animal life, their habitat, and the entire ecosystem. The drive for perfect lawns also leads to the squandering of precious natural resources, such as water.

We strongly urge Regional Council to adopt a "no cosmetic use of pesticides" policy in Halton Region. We would be proud to be on the cutting edge of a world-wide movement to reduce the amount of pesticides in our environment.

However, if Council is unable to adopt such a policy, we believe that as a minimum safety measure, we the residents of Halton Region have the right to know when pesticides are being used in our neighbourhoods, on private or public property, in order to allow time to take precautions to protect ourselves and our families from the hazards of pesticide exposure.

For this reason we recommend that you implement the following ordinance:

1. Neighbour notification
Residents within a 150-m radius of the pesticide application site must be notified of the impending application of pesticides, on both private and public property.

2.Timing of notice
A minimum of 7 days prior to application.

3. Visibility
An eight and a half by eleven ( 8 1/2-11) pesticide alert sign on a conspicuous place on the front of the property where the pesticide application will occur, plus a notice of intention as well as a health warning, attached to an accessible front door or gate of each residential unit within 150 m radius of the posted property.

4. Fines
Failure to comply with this ordinance should be addressed initially by a warning notice and, for repeat offences, by the imposition of FINES by the municipalities.

Public education will be the key component of the success of this ordinance. We also would like the Region to invest in a public education program regarding the harmful effects of pesticides on our health and environment.

Using the evidence we have, both human and animal, we can conclude that a number of pesticides that we already use pose very serious risks to our health. It is appropriate that we take policy and public health measures to assure that all of us are at least aware of the risks. We must give this absolute priority.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak and to share our concerns with you. We are happy to help out in any way in order to increase public awareness regarding the dangers of pesticides.

..............................................

Handouts:
  • Why Canadian Physicians are Concerned about the Policies Regulating Pesticide Use
    Presentation by Kelly Martin, M.D., to the Standing Committee on the Environment
  • Pesticides making the Right Choice for the Protection of Health and Environment
    Introduction to the Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Halton Region Health Department Report # MO-41-00, June 16, 2000 from Robert M. Nosal, M.D. Commissioner& Medical Officer of Health (Halton Region)
  • Copy of the Presentation by CAW Environment Council, Oakvillegreen, Gardens off Drugs