Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 | 1:48 PM ET
Canadian Press: Keith Leslie, THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO – A coalition of environmental activists and health professionals called on the Ontario government Tuesday to quickly pass a promised, provincewide ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides.
The group, which includes the Canadian Cancer Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence and the Ontario Medical Association, said the Liberal government should follow Quebec’s lead and pass the ban on pesticides this year.
The Ontario College of Family Physicians said the long-term effects of exposure to pesticides can be devastating, especially to pregnant women and children.
“(It) leads to very, very nasty conditions of cancers and learning disabilities and abortions and birth defects,” CEO Jan Kasperski told a news conference at the legislature.
“Banning lawn pesticides will be a major contribution to children’s health. They deserve our protection.”
Kasperski said she once found her two-year-old grandson sitting beside a sign from a chemical company announcing it had just sprayed the lawn, chewing on a ball he’d found there.
“I called poison control and they assured me that I had done everything that I could to protect Ryan,” she said. “But I did one more thing that mothers do every time they see their kids exposed unnecessarily to chemicals like pesticides, I worried, and I still worry.”
Kasperski said society debated about the long-term effects of exposure to tobacco smoke for decades before legislation was introduced to protect children, and warned that approach should not be repeated with pesticides.
“What we’re calling for now is to ensure that while we recognize that these toxins are causing harm, that we reduce the exposures as much as possible, and don’t wait 40 years for the evidence to gather in the same way we did with tobacco.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty promised legislation to prohibit the cosmetic use of pesticides during last fall’s election campaign, something he was urged Tuesday to act on immediately.
“We urge the premier to protect the public, and other living beings, by passing the strongest possible legislation controlling the non-essential use of pesticides,” said Doris Grinspun of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.
“Premier, we ask you to move speedily to ban the use, sale and retail displays of this poisonous products.”
Environmentalists said Ontario needs to replace a patchwork quilt of local bylaws banning pesticides with provincewide legislation, along with a public awareness campaign.
“The people of Ontario both want and deserve the same protection (as Quebec),” said Susan Koswan of Pesticide Free Ontario. “We’d like to see legislation that requires publicity of the ban, and public education about alternatives to pesticides.”
“If it would be provincewide, it would be much easier to enforce and to monitor it’s enforcement,” said Grinspun.
Coalition members said they doesn’t object to exemptions for farmers and golf courses, as long as golf course operators develop plans to reduce – and hopefully eliminate – their use of pesticides.
The coalition commissioned a public opinion survey, which found that 71 per cent of Ontarians would support the idea of a “Quebec-type ban” on the cosmetic use of pesticides.
© The Canadian Press, 2008