Ban pesticides now, forum warns

Josh Pennell
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Pesticides and toxic chemicals shrink the penis and the brain making us not only less sexy, but less intelligent, too.

The Citizens Against Pesticides NL (CAP NL) held a public forum at St. Teresa’s Parish Hall on Mundy Pond Road Tuesday night with presentations by Dr. Atanu Sarkar (left), an associate professor of environmental and occupational health and Dr. Cora Young, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry, both with Memorial University of Newfoundland. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

That’s likely the most humourless joke you’ll ever hear Greg Malone make. He said it at a public forum Tuesday night in St. John’s on the effect of pesticides and other toxic chemicals on the environment.

Malone is part of the Coalition for Alternative Pesticides (CAP-NL). Its mandate is to push for human health rights and environmental quality and eliminate the use of toxic substances.

Specifically, the group wants Tordon 101 — a herbicide — to be banned in this province, but the forum was about pesticides and toxic chemicals in general.

It featured two speakers — Dr. Atanu Sarkar with the MUN Faculty of Medicine and Dr. Cora Young with the Department of Chemistry.

Neither speaker danced around how serious they consider the use of dangerous chemicals in our environment.

“We can not escape. Everywhere there are pesticides,” Sarkar said.

“We need to act now.”

Those words summed up the majority of the forum. Both spoke about how in places of the world where there have never been toxic chemicals sprayed, such as the Arctic, you’ll find traces of them because they travel through the environment so readily.

Moreover, we can’t get rid of pesticides simply by banning them, they said. Pesticides banned years ago are still found in the environment because they don’t get flushed out easily.

One of the biggest risks of pesticides highlighted by Sakar was that their chemical structure is similar to human hormones so the body can’t distinguish between the two.

“That disrupts our whole hormonal system,” he said, adding that they can lead to such cancers as breast and prostate.

The chemicals have similar effects on all life forms.

Young said things in our environment have gotten so bad with respect to pesticides and toxic chemicals because our regulatory system on the use of such materials is reactive instead of proactive and by the time a chemical is banned, it’s too late. That chemical is in the environment to stay.

“We can’t get rid of them,” she said.

Though it’s difficult to erase the mistakes made through past toxic chemical use, improving regulations can help us to stop making the same mistakes over and over again, Young added.

Anybody interested in learning more about CAP-NL and getting involved can email Dr. Frank Smith at



Organizations: CAP-NL, Coalition for Alternative Pesticides, Department of Chemistry

Geographic location: Arctic

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Recent comments

  • Gerry
    May 14, 2014 - 15:12

    It's a no brainer, and that's the bigger reason why our politicians have done nothing to get it banned. It's right up there with hormones and antibiotics in the food supply. When we finally realize that we cannot afford our "free" health care any more, maybe someone just might think to use it to get elected. Too bad, a lot of us just won't be here...

  • Shakur Ali
    May 14, 2014 - 14:30

    I agree with the speakers. Now time to act. Let politicians and policymakers think deeply.

  • James Pullman
    May 14, 2014 - 14:26

    Very much timesly. Liked Dr. Sarkar's argument. We have to act now.