Since June 2001, when the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the pesticide by-law passed by the Town of Hudson, several municipalities in Ontario have implemented similar by-laws. To date, Cobalt, Perth, Caledon, North Bay, Toronto, Peterborough, The Archipelago and Thorold have passed by-laws to restrict pesticide use within their boundaries. Many others have opted to public education options. This approach, however, provides limited protection to Ontario residents.
Although municipalities can restrict the use of pesticides within their boundaries, they do not have jurisdiction over the sale of pesticides. This is a provincial responsibility. Pesticide by-laws, therefore, can prohibit the application of pesticides by lawn care companies and individuals but cannot prevent retail outlets from selling pesticides.
Residents of municipalities that have not adopted by-laws to restrict pesticide use are at risk from pesticide exposure.
The cosmetic use of pesticides in Ontario is a public health issue
Exposure to lawn and garden pesticides is associated with a host of adverse health effects. Pesticides Literature Review, a report released by the Ontario College of Family Physicians, showed “consistent links to serious illnesses, such as cancer, reproductive problems and neurological diseases.” 1
These concerns are shared by other health professionals, including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Ontario Public Health Association.
Pesticide poisoning incidents reported by Poison Control Centres
In 1996, the Quebec Poison Control Centre and the Quebec Ministry of Environment and Wildlife released statistics on pesticide poisonings. In total, there were 1,650 poisoning cases. Of these, 79.4% of the incidence was in private homes and 46.1% of the victims were children under age five. 31% of these cases were due to oral ingestion, and 34.9% followed a pesticide application.2
The Province of Quebec enacted restrictive legislation on the retail sales and use of landscape pesticides in 2003.
In March, 2003, the Province of Quebec introduced new regulations to the Pesticide Management Code. The regulations included an immediate ban on pesticide use around daycare centres and schools and on pesticide use on all public land. By 2005 pesticide use will be prohibited on all private land. The regulations apply to 23 pesticide active ingredients that are considered to be known or possible carcinogens or endocrine disruptors by the World Health Organization or the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States. For the full text of the regulations see:
There are effective alternatives to lawn and garden pesticides
Pesticides are not necessary for healthy lawns and gardens. In response to public interest in pesticide free landscaping information, larger Ontario municipalities and regions have produced booklets, pamphlets and fact sheets. The chemical lawn care industry is reluctant to adopt and use alternative practices and products. At present, the chemical lawn care industry consists of pesticide application experts not lawn care experts.
There is a lack of provincial standards for landscaping services
As more and more Ontario municipalities enact pesticide by-laws, the response from the chemical lawn care industry has been to create different systems of landscape maintenance. These include integrated pest management, natural programs, environmentally considerate programs, etc. The result is confusion. Standards and definitions are needed that apply to landscaping practices and programs for consumer clarification.
Pesticide reform is overdue in Ontario.
Pesticide Reform Ontario recommends the following changes to the Pesticides Act to protect the health of Ontario residents and to protect the environment.
Stop the sale and display of pesticides and fertilizer-pesticide mixtures.
By 2007, eliminate all non-essential, cosmetic, use of pesticides on private properties in the Province of Ontario.
Eliminate the use of lawn and garden pesticides on all properties owned by the Province of Ontario and on all properties in which provincial and municipal offices, agencies, boards and commissions are located.
* None of these changes will limit the power of municipalities to enact pesticide by-laws to protect the health safety and well-being of residents in a municipality pursuant to section 130 of the Municipal Act, 2001.