CELEBRATION! Decisive Precautionary Action in Ontario with Proclamation of Law Banning Use and Sale of Cosmetic Pesticides

Mar 04 2009

Toronto - CELA today joins our colleagues in the environmental movement, the child care sector, environmental health professionals, and progressive public health officials in celebrating passage of Ontario's bold and visionary leadership in banning the use and sale of pesticides for cosmetic purposes - those pesticides used simply to maintain the appearance of lawns and gardens.

After more than a year of extensive public consultation and multiple indications of overwhelming public support, the new law will be in place for Spring 2009. "We salute the Ontario government for putting in place the most health-protective cosmetic pesticide ban in North America," stated Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

The ban on use and sale extends to all the major toxic chemicals used in lawn and garden pesticide formulations, over 80 chemicals in all, and permits continued use only for low risk formulations. Additional exemptions for so-called "mixed use" pesticides will ensure chemical controls are available, if necessary, for public health reasons.

"We would have liked the final package to have ensured that all “mixed-use” (cosmetic and non-cosmetic) products be put under immediate lock and key by retailers and also that golf course pesticides be banned," stated Ms. McClenaghan. "We look to retailers to try and put such measures in place this year in advance of requirements being in place for the Spring of 2011."

"This new law is the culmination of twenty years of work across Canada, often by mothers of young children, who have demanded that needless pesticide use be prohibited in our communities," noted McClenaghan. "Throughout these efforts, CELA and others working on this issue, have considered it essential to investigate whether non-chemical alternatives exist, which of course they do. Not only do alternatives exist but a thriving industry has developed to meet this need, including the conversion of companies from traditional users of pesticides to those who provide a wide array of non-chemical alternatives. We strongly agree that this ban is an excellent part of Ontario's efforts to move to the new green economy," she stated.

Widespread public support for this law exists because it is about taking precautionary action. "People are concerned about pesticides and how they are regulated by the federal government," noted Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher with CELA. "Despite the fact that federal regulation of pesticides has been improved, we must recognize that the scientific evidence in support of registering pesticides is never entirely complete. The assessments of pesticides, done by the federal government, result in a determination of "acceptable risk," not a determination of "safety." More important, it is essential to recognize that the scientific evaluation of every pesticide occurs in isolation from other evaluations," stated Cooper.

"Even with movement by regulatory agencies, including Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, towards assessing groups of pesticides with common toxic effects, the basic approach remains of studying individual pesticides one at a time, applying margins of safety that regulators hope will be sufficient, and ignoring the reality of multiple chemical exposures. The entire exercise occurs within a situation of incomplete information. At the same time there is a rapidly expanding body of scientific literature looking into troubling and, often completely unexpected, impacts of chemicals on the environment and human health. Children and particularly the fetus in utero are often at greatest risk," stated Cooper.

"This new law enjoys very strong public support. This support comes directly from concern about the reality of multiple chemical exposures in our daily lives and wanting to see a precautionary response - eliminating exposures where and when we can. Getting rid of things that are unnecessary simply makes sense to just about everyone," McClenaghan stated.

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For more information:

Theresa McClenaghan, theresa@cela.ca 416-960-2284 ext. 219
Kathleen Cooper, kcooper@cela.ca 705-341-2488 (cell)