Landscapers bemoan pesticide ban

Andrew Robinson
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Rod Squires, owner of Complete Pest Control in St. John’s, does not think there is enough evidence to prove pesticide use on lawns is harmful to public health. — Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram

While landscapers in Newfoundland and Labrador may not be entirely surprised by the provincial government’s decision to ban the use and sale of pesticides for cosmetic lawn care purposes, they do not appreciate being singled out.

“The problem we have with it is they banned it for just one industry and not for golf courses, greenhouse operators or sod producers,” said Doreen Layman, president of Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador.

“If a product is deemed to be harmful to the public’s health and to the environment, then shouldn’t it be totally banned?”

The ban, which comes into effect next year, includes carbaryl, 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), mecoprop, dicamba, and MCPA (2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid). They are mostly used to kill or control garden weeds and insects.

It does not affect non-cosmetic pesticide uses, including golf courses, agriculture and forestry use and road and infrastructure maintenance.

Mike Rabinowitz, an organic farmer in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, said the environment is better off without the presence of chemical pesticides.

“I think this is good, and we could expand it further,” he said.

Rod Squires, owner of Complete Pest Control in St. John’s, contends there are no studies showing the banned products are harmful.

“I’ve been using pesticides myself for the last 25 years, and thank God — knock on wood — I still have my health,” he said.

Non-profit groups think otherwise, according to new releases from Thursday.

The Canadian Cancer Society referenced evidence pointing to links between pesticide use and cancer, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association said the ban will benefit the health of asthmatics.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association also voiced its approval of the ban.

“Numerous Canadian medical research organizations have produced convincing evidence that pesticides play a role in the development of human cancers, including childhood non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said NLMA president Dr. Sandra Luscombe, also a pediatrician. “Evidence also suggests that the harmful effects of pesticides can profoundly influence the developmental processes of the fetus and newborn children.”

The timing of the announcement comes three months prior to the Oct. 11 provincial election, and Don Barry, owner of Servicemaster Lawn Care in St. John’s, does not believe this is a coincidence.

“It was a political move,” he said. “It’s not based on science, and if it were based on science, there wouldn’t be an issue.”

Price increases and an adjustment in consumer expectations will be two aftershocks resulting from the province’s decision according to Layman, who co-owns Mr. Turf in Mount Pearl with her husband Scott.

“Results may take a bit longer, there might be more services involved to get the same results, and expectations will have to change.”

Barry is weary of using alternative products like insecticidal soaps or corn gluten meal, finding their effectiveness limited based on past experiences.

Insecticidal soaps are suggested for controlling cinch bugs, but Barry found them to be particularly ineffective.

“People who have an infestation with that particular bug will pretty much have a destroyed lawn,” he said. “They don’t work.”

Layman, who has worked in lawn care for 23 years, experienced mixed results using alternative products. Mr. Turf has introduced organic lawn care options in recent years.

She said each lawn care company will have to determine what works best for them.

Barry expects the ban will result in layoffs at his property maintenance company, which currently employs 35 workers.

He said the impact of the pesticide ban on lawns may be tempered if the City of St. John’s enforced a bylaw requiring six-inches of topsoil for new homes.

“If we have that down, that will go a long way in maintaining a property and allowing it to bounce back from an infestation.”

While the government may be able to control companies, Layman suspects some lawn owners will resort to hoarding pesticides or purchasing them outside the province.

Organizations: Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, Canadian Cancer Society Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association Servicemaster Lawn Care

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Portugal Cove

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Recent comments

  • Nanny State
    July 15, 2011 - 23:27

    What a crock. I'm ashamed we Newfoundlanders are so easily fooled. OTTAWA, May 16, 2008 – Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) concluded its re-evaluation of the popular herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), finding that the herbicide can be used safely according to label directions for a variety of lawn, turf and agricultural applications. “Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Re-evaluation Decision (2,4-Dichlorophenoxy)acetic Acid [2,4-D], RVD2008-11. May 16, 2008.” In issuing the decision, the PMRA stated in its Information Note, “Health Canada also consulted an independent Science Advisory Panel comprised of government and university experts/researchers in toxicology, epidemiology and biology. The Panel agreed with Health Canada’s assessment that 2,4-D can be used safely when used according to label directions, with some uses requiring additional protective measures.” Jim Gray, executive director of the Industry Task Force II on 2,4-D Research Data, said, “After reviewing an unprecedented depth of scientific data and expert panel reviews regarding the impact 2,4-D may have on children, adults, animals and the environment, Health Canada determined the herbicide meets all of Canada’s pesticide health and safety regulations, which are among the toughest and most stringent in the world.” “These most recent findings by the PMRA are consistent with previous decisions made by authorities including the World Health Organization, European Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and recent studies by the U.S. National Cancer Institute that deem 2,4-D to be a valuable and useful herbicide that does not pose human health or environmental risks when used according to label instructions,” Gray added. This conclusion supports the 2005 and 2007 draft assessments issued by PMRA which found that 2,4-D can be used safely on lawn, turf, agricultural, forestry and industrial sites, when label directions are followed. Health Canada’s decision and other resources pertaining to 2,4-D may be found at:

  • odderin
    July 15, 2011 - 14:34

    just in case you don't know, herbicides kill weeds, pesticides kill bugs. Since the substances in question are herbicides, pest control people should have no reaction to this!!

    • Nick B
      July 17, 2011 - 11:54

      Actually, pesticides in a broad term including all herbicides, insecticides (which are used to "kill bugs"), fungicides, rodenticides etc etc. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

  • odderin
    July 15, 2011 - 13:06

    ___Herbicides____ NOT pesticides, by the way... please fix this mistake!!!

  • odderin
    July 15, 2011 - 12:56

    Er, from a simple wikipedia check, "The typical smell of 2,4-D is the break-down product 2,4-dichlorophenol, which is a suspected endocrine disrupter and possible carcinogen. 2,4-D is toxic to the liver at small dosages. Increases in liver function tests, jaundice, acute hepatitis, lobular and portal inflammation indicative of a toxic reaction, as well as permanent damage leading to cirrhosis in exposed golfers" (see wikipedia article entitled "2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid" for references which are scientific papers containing the studies) "The United States Environmental Protection Agency has classified mecoprop [methylchlorophenoxypropionic acid (MCPP)] as toxicity class III - slightly toxic" (again, see wikipedia article entitled "mecoprop" for references "It [dicambria, proper name 3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid] is moderately toxic by ingestion and slightly toxic by inhalation or dermal exposure (oral LD50 in rats: 757 mg/kg body weight, dermal LD502,000 mg/kg, inhalation LC50200 mg/L)." the article also states that weeds have developed resistance, so it's useless as an herbicide. see wikipedia article entitled "dicambria" for references. "The lowest published lethal oral dose for MCPA in humans is 814 mg/kg bw (RTECS, 2005). Symptoms of acute exposure to large doses of MCPA have been reported as a result of poisoning from accidental ingestion and accidental exposure during manufacturing or application in the field. The symptoms include fatigue, weakness, anoxia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, lowering of the blood pressure, body temperature disturbance, progressive hypotension, ataxia, neuromuscular irritability and convulsion (Popham and Davis, 1964; Johnson and Koumides, 1965; Jones et al., 1967; Palva et al., 1975; Bovey, 1980b; Timonen and Palva, 1980; U.S. EPA, 1984)." from the government of canada website, "Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality: 2-Methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic Acid (MCPA)" Studies have been done on the toxicity of ALL these products... they have to be before they're sold on the market, by law. And all these compounds end up washed out of your lawn and into nearby waterways. So there is the science - knowledge is power -yours truly, a helpful chemist

    • Martin Steenblok
      July 29, 2011 - 09:44

      So according to the ld 50 charts these products you are so scared of are less toxic than both aspirin and caffeine in oral doses are we going to ban them as well?

  • Leo
    July 15, 2011 - 09:40

    It's wary, not weary. Though they may be weary at this point.

  • Bibbie from NL
    July 15, 2011 - 09:29

    I like to start by saying I don’t use pesticides on my lawn, I don’t smoke and I don’t use tanning beds and I am a woman. I am more concerned about the right for “Freedom of Choice”. We have to wear seatbelts, we are not allowed to smoke in cars with kids under the age of 16 but, there is no law that a person under the age of 16 can’t smoke themselves. There are few places that you are allowed to smoke, cigarettes have to be covered in stores, you have to wear a lifejacket, kids have to wear helmets, and they even revised the Tim Horton’s at the Health Sciences Centre because donuts are not good for you. Now, they are fighting to make it illegal for kids under the age of 19 to be allowed in a tanning salon. The list goes on and on. They are trying to designate what you should eat and do and everyday, there is something else becoming illegal. Slowly but surely, they are taking away our rights but telling us it is what is best for us. Why are our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and other places, isn’t it to give these people freedom to make their own decisions but, we are not smart enough to choose the right decision for ourselves and our children. Next the ENT doctors will say cell phones and I-Pods are causing brain cancer and damaging your ears and they will become illegal, microwave ovens will be banned because using them could lead to cancer. Yet, I have never hear the “Pill” being talked about as being banned even though there has been a lot of medical information written that there is a strong link between the pill and ovarian, cervical, liver and breast cancer so why isn’t this being challenged. I guess they don’t want to challenge all those feminist groups. My concern is that soon all our rights will be taking from us not only medically but, even in the Labour force as we have seen in a couple of recent strikes. You’re right to strike will soon end for everyone. Don’t give the government that much power and don’t let what those men fought for long ago be in vain. Speak up.

    • Chantal
      July 15, 2011 - 10:42

      "Why are our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and other places, isn’t it to give these people freedom to make their own decisions..." It was never about that -- but if you believe that, I have a bridge for sale for a very reasonable price... So where do you stand on big government taking away our freedom of choice for pregnant women to use Thalidomide?

  • prufock
    July 15, 2011 - 08:56

    Rod Squires contends that there are no studies showing the products are harmful. So why is he wearing that face mask in the accompanying photo?

    • mo
      July 15, 2011 - 13:57

      Thanks, my question exactly - why the mask? I guess pesticides are safe if you wear one. I don't want to risk my health because my neighbors want a pretty lawn.

  • Dave Lane
    July 15, 2011 - 08:27

    I thought this was an interesting comment: "He said the impact of the pesticide ban on lawns may be tempered if the City of St. John’s enforced a bylaw requiring six-inches of topsoil for new homes." What do you folks think? It's good for growing trees, too, which make our city more beautiful.

    • odderin
      July 15, 2011 - 13:00

      too true, a lawn is only as healthy as the soil it grows from! Newfoundland has more issues than most places because of our poor soil quality, and folks could save a fortune by putting more soil down in the first place.

  • P F Murphy
    July 15, 2011 - 08:15

    I would have thought that lawn care companies would have foreseen more personnel and more profits from this ban. Surely if people are so enamoured of their not-desired-plant (i.e. weed) free lawns, then it would require more people and thus more profits to do that. It is also better for the lawn care people not to have these poisons in their work environment where they would be coming in contact with them day after day. As adults, they would be affected more slowly than children, who are smaller, by exposure to these poisons, but, like smoking, after a lifetime of exposure, one would expect the harmful result to be higher than the normal population. I am glad these poisons will now be banned because, although I didn't use them, I was exposed by their aerosoling as they were sprayed, by the ground water from properties that were treated in my neighbourhood and by tracking unknowingly on my feet from sprayed areas. I believe that the cancer risk to people, but especially children, will be decreased by this decision whether it was political or not.

  • wayne
    July 15, 2011 - 07:49

    Another victory for the "tree huggers". ...and another industry that employs people who don't have university degrees destroyed. The end result, more unemployment, and ugly lawns. And you will STILL get your daily dose of chemicals in every product that you buy. What a joke. Wait till somebody starts lobbying for us to all have to wear helmets while driving our cars. Stock up on Round Up and Sevin now...while you still can

    • JMP
      July 15, 2011 - 10:11

      Its about time for this ban to happen. It should be across the board. If research were done on people working in the industry - the sprayers - not the owners - to determine who among them has developed cancer they might change their minds. Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma is directly linked to the use of pesticides in older people. Ignorance is bliss. I had a elderly neighbour who had her lawn sprayed by a certain company....and whatever they used they killed everything including the took several years for it to come back....For Chinch bug water the areas more does work.... Change your outlook to a more positive one.... Be Healthier....Be Happier....Make HEALTHY Choices....You will feel better.

    • Chantal
      July 15, 2011 - 10:26

      Yes, thanks, "tree huggers." You've done a good job once more. Perhaps Wayne could find work in an asbestos mine.