What's best to decide on pesticide?

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Steve Bartlett
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Weighing pros and cons of ban 'high priority,' Environment minister says

To ban or not to ban? That is the question the provincial Environment department is trying to answer regarding pesticides.

"There's a lot of work going on," Environment Minister Charlene Johnson said in a recent interview. "It's something that's getting high priority in the department, and it is up for consideration."

Pesticides are used to combat things like weeds, insects or rodents.

Treating lawns and gardens with the chemicals is considered a cosmetic use.

Photo illustration by Thinkstock

To ban or not to ban? That is the question the provincial Environment department is trying to answer regarding pesticides.

"There's a lot of work going on," Environment Minister Charlene Johnson said in a recent interview. "It's something that's getting high priority in the department, and it is up for consideration."

Pesticides are used to combat things like weeds, insects or rodents.

Treating lawns and gardens with the chemicals is considered a cosmetic use.

With mounting evidence of a relationship between pesticides and cancer, there have long been calls for a ban on that usage.

The City of St. John's, for example, asked the province to regulate pesticides eight years ago.

The calls for a ban seemed louder in this province last year. The Newfoundland and Labrador Coalition on Pesticides and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador were among those who wanted a ban.

On the flip side, Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador - which represents the landscaping industry - has said it supports the controlled use of Health Canada-approved products by trained professionals. The organization says a problem is that the products are available to the public to use without training.

Johnson has met with groups on both sides of the argument and says she is still getting all the facts together before she makes a decision.

Part of the information she wants is being gathered by officials in the Department of Justice.

Johnson explains a U.S. company is challenging a Canadian pesticide ban in court and that she'd like details from the case before making her decision.

"I don't want us to end up in a lawsuit," she said.

Part of her pesticide pondering, the minister notes, involves defining how far a possible ban would go. For instance, would it apply to just lawn products or all pesticides?

"What if somebody has pests in the house?" she asked rhetorically.

Last week, Nova Scotia announced it will ban the sale of some lawn pesticides, beginning next spring.

New Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec also have restrictions in place.

Asked when this province could decide what it's going to do, Johnson was non-committal.

"I don't want to nail down the timelines myself other than to say it is very much actively being worked on," she said, noting pesticides are high on the agenda for an upcoming regional environment ministers conference.

Sheilagh O'Leary, a St. John's councillor and a member of the coalition on pesticides, doesn't see a reason to wait.

"I think the time is now," she said, adding she doesn't claim to be an expert, but that the research is against pesticide usage.

O'Leary said if the province is not willing to implement a ban it should give municipalities the teeth to do it.

She requested such power in a motion tabled to city council last fall.

"There are other ways to have beautiful lawns," she noted.

The Telegram was unable to reach Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador by phone and an e-mail sent to the organization requesting comment for this story was not returned by deadline.

Johnson noted weed and feed products - the "nasty ones" - were banned here in 2007.

She also acknowledged how far the landscaping industry has come, pointing to their shift towards more environmentally-friendly products and solutions.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Coalition on Pesticides, Health Canada, Department of Justice

Geographic location: St. John's, U.S., Nova Scotia New Brunswick Ontario Prince Edward Island Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides
    April 07, 2011 - 10:30

    Hi All, please sign our petition before April 15th, 2011 http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42016.html have cosmetic pesticides banned by adding your support to the petition

  • Judie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    There are many safe and natural ways to remove pests which are not labor intensive. A pesticide ban will only improve our environment, create more jobs and provide healthier air and water. Why anyone would hire a company to poison their lawn and neighborhood is beyond me...You can demand that companies use safe methods of lawn care without the use of chemical pesticides...It works in other provinces and will work here too. Lets go for it Newfoundland and Ban the non-essential use of synthetic pesticides - It's the right thing to do.

  • Responsible Citizen
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    I like to take care of my lawn and garden like you like to wash your car. Tell you what, you stop washing car-cleaning products (some of them are pure acid for cleaning rims) down the storm drain and I'll stop using pesticides on my lawn and garden. Then we'll both be doing something for society. Just because you don't take care of your property and send dangerous car cleaning products down the storm drain shouldn't mean I have to be like you and abandon my lawn.

  • John Smith
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Don't put it on your lawn for god's sake, but go down to the supermarket and feed it to your kids...what a ridiculous joke.

  • Anon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    On the flip side, Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador - which represents the landscaping industry - has said it supports the controlled use of Health Canada-approved products by trained professionals. The organization says a problem is that the products are available to the public to use without training.



    No the flip side is that health canada approved products are only approved because of corporate lobbying and backalley transactions. How an organization called Health Canada would approve a carcinogenic chemical with profound ecological consequences is beyond me.

    Ye want pretty lawns? Get off your lazy boys and pull the weeds out of the lawn roots and all like your great grand daddys did in their pradey gardens.

    Cosmetic use is just lazy gardening. Any gardener worth his skill would call chemicals a cheaters short cut. Go Natural or go home. There are lots of native plants that choke out weeds and undesired plants. Ever see a dandelion or crab grass in the middle of the woods?

  • James from St. Johns
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Judy Squires Do you eat cabbage full of holes? Grow ALL of your fruit and Vegetables as well as Tea, Coffee Supermarket Meats
    Do you grow TOTALLY all you eat or drink (untreated spring water - not bought in a bottle) if you don't you're eating and feeding harmful cancer causing chemicals to your family.

    Wake up and smell the toast we can't acquire enough feed in this world without pesticides!

  • Cinch Bug
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Lawn care companies are trained to apply pesticides in a safe manner ? Don't make me laugh. I've seen them in action where I live. I see them spraying in high winds and torrential rains. Not a clue or they simply don't care because they can't wait for good weather to make money or they'd never make money here. But I'll guarantee you one thing, homeowners using very diluted versions of pesticides for residential use will not go outside to apply these in those types of conditions. The choice results in who do you really want to allow to use pesticides ? The companies who want to make as much money as possible, or homeowners and the diluted products available to them ? If you ban pesticides, ban them for everyone, don't make it a monopoly for the groups who really have the least public interest at heart.

  • Boyd
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    Judy, what are the alternatives? Sheila, listen to the experts not so called internet experts.

  • Joe
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    rrgg from nl said:

    if my lawn that I paid $9000 to have installed is being eaten by chinch bugs, I want the right to spay my lawn to kill the insects.....

    What's that saying about a fool and his money??

  • Brendan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    I'm all for environmentally friendly products, but I believe that Minister Johnson is taking the right approach to regulating the use of certain pesticides. Weigh the pros and cons of all the arguments. After due consideration make your decision on what to ban and what to allow. Your judgment is quite sound.

  • Taxpayer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    I don't know that I can agree with John who advocates for the poisoning of children. But that is the thinking of business nowadays if it makes a profit it's good.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Would such a ban include BTK, which is sprayed on elm spanworms? If so, I'm agin it.

  • Ralf
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Ban all the lawn and garden chemicals used for nothing but vanity. You only need to get rid of those dandelions and chinch bugs so you can make your lawn look better than the neighbor's. If he can't use it either then you've got nothing to be jealous of any more.

  • rrgg
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    People are brain washed, not all pesticides are evil, if you uses them properly, mix them properly and wear you PPE, they are relatively safe. People will sit in their houses and drink town water that is full of chorine and never think twice, but if the word pesticide is mentioned they go up in arms Hello, chlorine is a killing all the pests in your water and you are drinking every day. That makes it a pesticide.. (not to mention a Carcinogenic), I know that pesticides are over used to make peoples gardens look pretty, but sometimes they are needed, if my lawn that I paid $9000 to have installed is being eaten by chinch bugs, I want the right to spay my lawn to kill the insects. This should be a personal choice, if you keep your kids and pets off my lawn, then the chemicals on my grass will not bother you.

  • Lawn Girl
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    To Cinch Bug :
    The chemicals available to the general public are not diluted. They are the same strength as the ones the professionals use.
    The professionals have to inform your neighbours before they spray your lawn. Your neighbour doesn't have to tell you if he does it himself.
    The professionals have to put signs on your lawn to say it's been sprayed. Your neighbour doesn't.
    Your neighbour could coat his lawn in a heavy dose of chemicals without ever telling you, and you, your child, or your pet could inadvertently walk through these chemicals without even knowing it.

    Some people want their lawns healthy and weed-free, if the pros are banned, they'll just do it themselves, without the necessary training.

  • Piotr
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    An answer to John Smith (and the same argument he was making after another article on April 22). His argument is: why ban cosmetic lawn pesticides if we do not ban pesticides on farms.

    Several reasons: 1. Because one wrong does not make another wrong right. 2. Because most people live next to lawns, not next to farms (i.e. MUCH bigger exposure). 3. Because airborne transmission (the wind blowing over your neighbour lawn) is a much more effective way to get pesticides into your body than transmission through the food (only a small portion of pesticides applied on farm ends up INSIDE the food). 4. Because you have at least some choice in the food you buy, you do not have any choice in the air blowing from your neighbour's lawn. 5. Because the pesticides on the farm, in addition to their harm, may have also valid benefits: no pesticides - less food - higher food prices - more famine/malnutrition. There are NO COMPARABLE benefits from spraying your lawn the only reason for spraying them is VANITY to make my lawn greener than the lawn of my neighbour, I am willing to poison his kids and make sure his garden produces less (pesticides on lawns kill insects that would pollinate his fruit trees and other plants).

  • Micky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    What ridiculous paranoia! I grew up in a town where large trucks filled with DDT sprayed all the trees on every street every summer as we played outside and breathed in the spray. I'm almost 80 years old. If I should pass on tomorrow will any of you experts say that DDT killed me? On the other hand, maybe that is what has helped me achieve my present age. You must realize that many mosquitoes can be deadly. Why is everyone so quick to fall in line without any rationalization?

  • wayne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    The nanny state in action again. I like to have a nice front yard and I pay a professional lawn care company to keep it that way. Other folks spend many hours of hobby/leisure time working on their lawns and gardens. These chemicals are legal and are used on fruits and vegetables. If you want to make an impact on something...ban smoking.

  • Judie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    James... I grow everything organically, purchase only organic foods and drink from my own 300' well... That's my choice. We have those choices when it comes to our food....We do not have a choice when our neighbors contaminate our air and their chemicals trespass on our properties.

  • WTF
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Is a ban necessary for NL? We have short summers and exposed to fewer weeds and insects than in other provinces. I suspect that cosmetic pesticide use here is well below the levels used in other provinces. I rarely see any commercial pesticide companies operating in my part of town.

  • Mark
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    What a contrast in styles. The provincial government actually looks at the argument on all sides, considers if they are creating a future legal liability, and will make an informed decision.
    Sheila says shes no expert but let's go anyway.
    What a clown.
    Beware the O'Lear! She will cost us all a lot of money if someone doesn't reign her in.

  • Bob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    The predominant research and medical health organization opinion supports a ban on the cosmetic use of most of the toixic chemical pesticides presently used on lawns and gardens in our province.
    Health Canada has a record of not adequately protecting the health of Canadians from toxic chemicals and other substances. Look at cigarettes and tobacco for example, the best Health Canada can do is require messages on the packs of smokes stating that they are dangerous to your health. It has been the provinces, not Health Canada, that have have had to legislate bans on smoking in public places. Health Canada has very little credibility as a regulator in this regard. Ontario and Quebec after years of their officials and commissions reviewing the pertinent research and investigating the pesticide issue have passed legislation banning most of the dangerous pesticides to which we continue to expose our children, ourselves and the environment in this province. Our provincial government has had this pesticide problem on their plate for years and it is taking far too long for them to act on this serious health issue. We don't need to reinvent the wheel - we need the legislation and ban now.

  • Judie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Mr. Loveless are you the lawn care professional? Also, NL uses more pesticides than most provinces...Information on those topics can be found here:

    http://sprayadvisory.webs.com/

  • Carolann
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    It is time to ban these chemical poisons! NL needs to get with the majority of Canada in using safer alternatives for lawn care. Our citizens health is more important than the vanity of whose lawn looks the best. Shame on Newfoundlanders for not cleaning up their act even earlier. Do the right thing now and BAN THESE POISONS!

  • jennifer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Look at the rising rates of autism in NL. Something is happening to our kids and any effort to mitigate this should be encouraged

  • Frankie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    I thought they (chemical herbicides) were already banned? Went to Kent last summer to get some Weed n' Feed for my lawn and was told when I couldn't find it at it's usual spot in the Garden Center, that they (Kent) were no longer making it available.
    At any rate, IMHO a lawn of clover looks as good as grass and requires little to no maintenance ... grass is too labor intensive!

  • Judie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    There are many safe and natural ways to remove pests which are not labor intensive. A pesticide ban will only improve our environment, create more jobs and provide healthier air and water. Why anyone would hire a company to poison their lawn and neighborhood is beyond me...You can demand that companies use safe methods of lawn care without the use of chemical pesticides...It works in other provinces and will work here too. Lets go for it Newfoundland and Ban the non-essential use of synthetic pesticides - It's the right thing to do.

  • Responsible Citizen
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    I like to take care of my lawn and garden like you like to wash your car. Tell you what, you stop washing car-cleaning products (some of them are pure acid for cleaning rims) down the storm drain and I'll stop using pesticides on my lawn and garden. Then we'll both be doing something for society. Just because you don't take care of your property and send dangerous car cleaning products down the storm drain shouldn't mean I have to be like you and abandon my lawn.

  • John Smith
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Don't put it on your lawn for god's sake, but go down to the supermarket and feed it to your kids...what a ridiculous joke.

  • Anon
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    On the flip side, Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador - which represents the landscaping industry - has said it supports the controlled use of Health Canada-approved products by trained professionals. The organization says a problem is that the products are available to the public to use without training.



    No the flip side is that health canada approved products are only approved because of corporate lobbying and backalley transactions. How an organization called Health Canada would approve a carcinogenic chemical with profound ecological consequences is beyond me.

    Ye want pretty lawns? Get off your lazy boys and pull the weeds out of the lawn roots and all like your great grand daddys did in their pradey gardens.

    Cosmetic use is just lazy gardening. Any gardener worth his skill would call chemicals a cheaters short cut. Go Natural or go home. There are lots of native plants that choke out weeds and undesired plants. Ever see a dandelion or crab grass in the middle of the woods?

  • James from St. Johns
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Judy Squires Do you eat cabbage full of holes? Grow ALL of your fruit and Vegetables as well as Tea, Coffee Supermarket Meats
    Do you grow TOTALLY all you eat or drink (untreated spring water - not bought in a bottle) if you don't you're eating and feeding harmful cancer causing chemicals to your family.

    Wake up and smell the toast we can't acquire enough feed in this world without pesticides!

  • Cinch Bug
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Lawn care companies are trained to apply pesticides in a safe manner ? Don't make me laugh. I've seen them in action where I live. I see them spraying in high winds and torrential rains. Not a clue or they simply don't care because they can't wait for good weather to make money or they'd never make money here. But I'll guarantee you one thing, homeowners using very diluted versions of pesticides for residential use will not go outside to apply these in those types of conditions. The choice results in who do you really want to allow to use pesticides ? The companies who want to make as much money as possible, or homeowners and the diluted products available to them ? If you ban pesticides, ban them for everyone, don't make it a monopoly for the groups who really have the least public interest at heart.

  • Boyd
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Judy, what are the alternatives? Sheila, listen to the experts not so called internet experts.

  • Joe
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    rrgg from nl said:

    if my lawn that I paid $9000 to have installed is being eaten by chinch bugs, I want the right to spay my lawn to kill the insects.....

    What's that saying about a fool and his money??

  • Brendan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    I'm all for environmentally friendly products, but I believe that Minister Johnson is taking the right approach to regulating the use of certain pesticides. Weigh the pros and cons of all the arguments. After due consideration make your decision on what to ban and what to allow. Your judgment is quite sound.

  • Taxpayer
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    I don't know that I can agree with John who advocates for the poisoning of children. But that is the thinking of business nowadays if it makes a profit it's good.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Would such a ban include BTK, which is sprayed on elm spanworms? If so, I'm agin it.

  • Ralf
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Ban all the lawn and garden chemicals used for nothing but vanity. You only need to get rid of those dandelions and chinch bugs so you can make your lawn look better than the neighbor's. If he can't use it either then you've got nothing to be jealous of any more.

  • rrgg
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    People are brain washed, not all pesticides are evil, if you uses them properly, mix them properly and wear you PPE, they are relatively safe. People will sit in their houses and drink town water that is full of chorine and never think twice, but if the word pesticide is mentioned they go up in arms Hello, chlorine is a killing all the pests in your water and you are drinking every day. That makes it a pesticide.. (not to mention a Carcinogenic), I know that pesticides are over used to make peoples gardens look pretty, but sometimes they are needed, if my lawn that I paid $9000 to have installed is being eaten by chinch bugs, I want the right to spay my lawn to kill the insects. This should be a personal choice, if you keep your kids and pets off my lawn, then the chemicals on my grass will not bother you.

  • Lawn Girl
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    To Cinch Bug :
    The chemicals available to the general public are not diluted. They are the same strength as the ones the professionals use.
    The professionals have to inform your neighbours before they spray your lawn. Your neighbour doesn't have to tell you if he does it himself.
    The professionals have to put signs on your lawn to say it's been sprayed. Your neighbour doesn't.
    Your neighbour could coat his lawn in a heavy dose of chemicals without ever telling you, and you, your child, or your pet could inadvertently walk through these chemicals without even knowing it.

    Some people want their lawns healthy and weed-free, if the pros are banned, they'll just do it themselves, without the necessary training.

  • Piotr
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    An answer to John Smith (and the same argument he was making after another article on April 22). His argument is: why ban cosmetic lawn pesticides if we do not ban pesticides on farms.

    Several reasons: 1. Because one wrong does not make another wrong right. 2. Because most people live next to lawns, not next to farms (i.e. MUCH bigger exposure). 3. Because airborne transmission (the wind blowing over your neighbour lawn) is a much more effective way to get pesticides into your body than transmission through the food (only a small portion of pesticides applied on farm ends up INSIDE the food). 4. Because you have at least some choice in the food you buy, you do not have any choice in the air blowing from your neighbour's lawn. 5. Because the pesticides on the farm, in addition to their harm, may have also valid benefits: no pesticides - less food - higher food prices - more famine/malnutrition. There are NO COMPARABLE benefits from spraying your lawn the only reason for spraying them is VANITY to make my lawn greener than the lawn of my neighbour, I am willing to poison his kids and make sure his garden produces less (pesticides on lawns kill insects that would pollinate his fruit trees and other plants).

  • Micky
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    What ridiculous paranoia! I grew up in a town where large trucks filled with DDT sprayed all the trees on every street every summer as we played outside and breathed in the spray. I'm almost 80 years old. If I should pass on tomorrow will any of you experts say that DDT killed me? On the other hand, maybe that is what has helped me achieve my present age. You must realize that many mosquitoes can be deadly. Why is everyone so quick to fall in line without any rationalization?

  • wayne
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    The nanny state in action again. I like to have a nice front yard and I pay a professional lawn care company to keep it that way. Other folks spend many hours of hobby/leisure time working on their lawns and gardens. These chemicals are legal and are used on fruits and vegetables. If you want to make an impact on something...ban smoking.

  • Judie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    James... I grow everything organically, purchase only organic foods and drink from my own 300' well... That's my choice. We have those choices when it comes to our food....We do not have a choice when our neighbors contaminate our air and their chemicals trespass on our properties.

  • WTF
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Is a ban necessary for NL? We have short summers and exposed to fewer weeds and insects than in other provinces. I suspect that cosmetic pesticide use here is well below the levels used in other provinces. I rarely see any commercial pesticide companies operating in my part of town.

  • Mark
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    What a contrast in styles. The provincial government actually looks at the argument on all sides, considers if they are creating a future legal liability, and will make an informed decision.
    Sheila says shes no expert but let's go anyway.
    What a clown.
    Beware the O'Lear! She will cost us all a lot of money if someone doesn't reign her in.

  • Bob
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    The predominant research and medical health organization opinion supports a ban on the cosmetic use of most of the toixic chemical pesticides presently used on lawns and gardens in our province.
    Health Canada has a record of not adequately protecting the health of Canadians from toxic chemicals and other substances. Look at cigarettes and tobacco for example, the best Health Canada can do is require messages on the packs of smokes stating that they are dangerous to your health. It has been the provinces, not Health Canada, that have have had to legislate bans on smoking in public places. Health Canada has very little credibility as a regulator in this regard. Ontario and Quebec after years of their officials and commissions reviewing the pertinent research and investigating the pesticide issue have passed legislation banning most of the dangerous pesticides to which we continue to expose our children, ourselves and the environment in this province. Our provincial government has had this pesticide problem on their plate for years and it is taking far too long for them to act on this serious health issue. We don't need to reinvent the wheel - we need the legislation and ban now.

  • Judie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Mr. Loveless are you the lawn care professional? Also, NL uses more pesticides than most provinces...Information on those topics can be found here:

    http://sprayadvisory.webs.com/

  • Carolann
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    It is time to ban these chemical poisons! NL needs to get with the majority of Canada in using safer alternatives for lawn care. Our citizens health is more important than the vanity of whose lawn looks the best. Shame on Newfoundlanders for not cleaning up their act even earlier. Do the right thing now and BAN THESE POISONS!

  • jennifer
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Look at the rising rates of autism in NL. Something is happening to our kids and any effort to mitigate this should be encouraged

  • Frankie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    I thought they (chemical herbicides) were already banned? Went to Kent last summer to get some Weed n' Feed for my lawn and was told when I couldn't find it at it's usual spot in the Garden Center, that they (Kent) were no longer making it available.
    At any rate, IMHO a lawn of clover looks as good as grass and requires little to no maintenance ... grass is too labor intensive!