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LETTER: Pesticides

Dear editor,

I am honorary Canadian observer on the umbrella U.S. Pesticide Working Group. I live in suburban Ottawa and have a substantial lawn maintained in an
excellent condition, without any pesticides and with very little effort. Few people know that herbicides were unavailable for weed control prior to WWII and were initially used for military purposes.

The lawns in my neighbourhood tend to be quite large and despite the Ontario ban, in effect since the spring of 2009, are kept in an entirely satisfactory condition.

Mr. Gathercole and his group have a vested interest in the status quo and want to maintain it all costs. To this end, they have been harassing targeted individuals daily by sending them colourful daily newsletters, each with a pretty girl, and tedious diatribes against so-called "enviro-maniacs" and "basterds".

The support this group obtains from the lawn-care industry at large appears to be limited. The group maintains that all pesticides are always safe and that there is no global warming. They are especially hostile toward the Canadian Cancer Society and Canadian doctors organizations as well as all individuals aware of any undesirable health effects of pesticides.

The group is contemptuous of independently obtained evidence that pesticides are linked to cancer, endocrine system (glands) disruption, neurological and immune systems damage, asthma, as well as behavioural and learning disabilities. Children are especially vulnerable. When children walk beside a sprayed lawn they are exposed via inhalation to the residues of herbicides, or their breakdown products, which are absorbed directly by the brain, bypassing the liver which is the cleansing organ.

A municipal ban is a step in the right direction. However, municipalities have not been empowered to regulate the sales of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. Therefore, it is necessary for provincial authorities eventually to step into the regulatory void (as Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency merely examines rat data provided by the industry with a limited applicability to humans).

In North America we allow the industry to register and use pesticides while vital health data are outstanding and may or may not arrive. In the European Union, companies are given deadlines to submit the necessary health data. In the event of their failure to do so, the registration is withdrawn.

K. Jean Cottam, PhD

Ottawa