NB Telegraph Journal
Many have warned against pesticides
In response to Lorne Hepworth: Group Concerned about ban on pesticides
(Feb 26), it's expected that someone who has an interest in the
production and sale of pesticides will speak out about the need to
continue to do so.
However, I take exception to the remarks that there is no honest
exploration of the facts.
Members of the Canadian Cancer Society and Canadian Lung Association
have answers to questions about this. There are doctors and
specialists taking their valuable time to fight against the cosmetic
use of pesticides to help stop the many diseases they witness on a
If cosmetic use of pesticide is safe, why can't we walk on the lawn
immediately after the spraying of poison? Companies have professionals
trained to spray our neighbourhoods with poison.
Then signs with skull and bones are staked into lawn after lawn
telling people and animals to stay off for a few days. Children and
animals? We childproof our homes with hooks on cupboard doors to keep
our children safe from household products and yet we freely have our
lawns sprayed with poison for them to breathe and play in. Does this
not ring of stupidity?
When it comes right down to it, do we really need a green (poisoned)
lawn to live? Well, for some, the elimination of this frivolous need
to spray poison is necessary to live.
Let your conscience and your common sense guide you.
Saturday February 28th, 2009
The Fredericton Daily Gleaner
Work with nature, not pesticides, to control chinch bugs
Re: Cosmetic pesticides
On Feb. 17 we learned about a press release regarding the results of a
New Brunswick poll on use of cosmetic pesticides.
In a television report, Jack Wetmore of Wetmore's Nursery made a
comprehensive comment on the necessity of using pesticides to control
A search on the Internet taught me that there are numerous techniques
to use to avoid a chinch bug infestation.
They include keeping a grass height to a minimum of 2.5 inches, not
mowing more than one-third of grass surface at a time and watering
Other techniques include permitting clover to grow (this is a broad-
leaved plant which is killed by cosmetic pesticides), using slow
release organic lawn fertilizers and removing excess thatch.
Then there are aerating compacted soils, top dressing with compost and
This is not a comprehensive list, but it indicates that a healthy lawn
will not be so prone to insect damage.
There are beneficial insects which help to control chinch bugs, but
those helpful bugs are all killed off by cosmetic pesticides.
We don't need pesticides, the purchase of which fattens the wallets of
people who sell them and aids in the destruction of our environment at
the same time.
We need to get back to the basics of working with nature in order to
protect our health and the health of those we love.
le jeudi 26 février 2009
Interdiction d'épandage de pesticides à des fins esthétiques
FREDERICTON - Soixante-dix-neuf pour cent des Néo-brunswickois
appuieraient une interdiction provinciale concernant l'utilisation de
pesticides non essentiels (à des fins esthétiques ou «cosmétiques»),
selon les résultats d'une nouvelle enquête Ipsos Reid.
Le sondage dévoile également que trois résidents sur quatre
appuieraient une interdiction de vente de ces produits.
Le sondage révèle que 80% des Néo-brunswickois croient que les
pesticides dits "cosmétiques" ont le potentiel de nuire à la santé
humaine et à l'environnement. Un autre 85% des répondants sont d'avis
que ces produits peuvent nuire à la santé des animaux de compagnie.
«Il est évident que les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick sont inquiets», dit
Ken Maybee, président de l'Association pulmonaire du Nouveau-
«Il y a des preuves toujours croissantes qui démontrent un lien entre
les pesticides et le cancer, affirme Anne McTiernan-Gamble, directrice
de la Société canadienne du cancer, section du N. B.. De plus, on sait
que ces pesticides cosmétiques n'apportent aucun bénéfice à la santé
humaine. Il faudrait donc que le gouvernement du Nouveau-Brunswick
écoute ses citoyens et qu'il adopte des mesures nécessaires.»
Les données du sondage Ipsos Reid viennent confirmer les résultats
d'une récente enquête du gouvernement provincial qui démontre, elle
aussi, que les Néo-brunswickois sont majoritairement en faveur d'une
interdiction provinciale de l'utilisation de produits chimiques pour
l'entretien des pelouses. Selon les environnementalistes, cela devrait
mettre une pression additionnelle sur le gouvernement de Shawn Graham
pour que soit rapidement adoptée une nouvelle loi contre l'utilisation
de ces produits au Nouveau-Brunswick.
«Il faut dès cette année légiférer en interdisant l'utilisation et la
vente de ces produits au Nouveau-Brunswick, affirme Michel DesNeiges,
avocat de la Société pour l'avancement du droit de l'environnement
(SADE). Le modèle à suivre serait celui de la province de l'Ontario
qui a récemment apporté des amendements à sa loi sur les pesticides.»
Le Québec fut la première province au pays à adopter une loi limitant
l'utilisation de pesticides à des fins esthétiques.
Selon Gideon Forman, directeur exécutif de l'Association canadienne
des médecins pour l'environnement, «Le Nouveau-Brunswick devrait aller
encore plus loin que l'Ontario et le Québec. La loi de l'Ontario est
bonne, mais elle ne place pas de restrictions sur les parcours de
golf. Nous recommandons au gouvernement de Shawn Graham de forcer les
propriétaires de terrains de golf à éliminer l'utilisation de ces
substances sur leurs parcours.»
Le sondage a été commandé par la Société canadienne du cancer Nouveau-
Brunswick, l'Association pulmonaire du Nouveau-Brunswick et
l'Association canadienne des médecins pour l'environnement. Il a été
effectué entre les 5 et 9 décembre 2009 auprès de 438 résidents du
Nouveau-Brunswick et a une marge d'erreur de 4.7%, 19 fois sur 20.
February 28, 2009
The Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Dandelion killer could be dream-come-true
By Jim Hole,
I was channel surfing the other day and happened to catch a glimpse of
an old Incredible Hulk episode from the '80s. Honestly, I wouldn't
have stopped, but Dr. Bruce Banner was on the cusp of synthesizing an
anti-juvenile hormone to control a beetle species that was devastating
crops in southern California.
Knowing that the beetle larvae were poised to chew up countless fields
in precisely five days, Dr. Banner (who briefly lamented that he
wasn't an entomologist) confidently asserted that he could have the
miraculous hormone ready in two days -- give or take a few hours.
Apparently, nitpicky things like, oh say, product safety and efficacy
weren't top shelf for the good doctor.
Now, while on the topic of big green things (and bad segues), the
reason I got such a kick out of that episode is that, in the real
world, it takes umpteen years from the day a compound is discovered or
synthesized to the day it has even a hope of being approved for sale.
And as it just so happens, the day that I saw the Hulk episode was the
same day I received notification about a new environmentally friendly
product -- one I've been waiting to get my hands on for a lot longer
than two days.
The product is called Sarritor, and it's the latest in what are
referred to as biological control agents. Biological controls (or
biocontrols, for short) are naturally occurring organisms that are
released into crops as a means of controlling pests.
Sarritor contains Sclerotinia minor, a fungus that attacks, arguably,
our worst urban pest: the dandelion. The dandelion-devouring
Sclerotinia is a naturally occuring strain of the fungus that's rather
adept at invading dandelion leaves and destroying them via secretion
of oxalic acid.
Now before you begin jumping up and down at the thought of applying
this environmentally friendly, dandelion-destroying fungus to your
lawn, here are a few caveats.
First, having talked to the technical representative from Sarritor
last week, I learned much to my chagrin that every last bit of
Sarritor has been bought up by a few select lawn-care companies.
According to that same rep, the company could have sold the product
five times over, based on current demand.
Let's face it, green is big, which is why they are planning on having
an adequate supply available for both lawn-care companies and
homeowners in 2010.
The second big (and most important) caveat is that Sarritor -- to my
knowledge -- has not been extensively tested on the prairies. Although
the short supply is likely why there haven't been a lot of trials
here, it's tough to say whether our typically dry climate will prove
hospitable to the fungus anyway. Whereas rain is the enemy of
conventional lawn herbicides, rain or irrigation is essential for the
Sclerotinia fungus to grow and invade dandelion leaves.
And that brings up another point: the fungus attacks leaves -- not
roots -- and therefore might be more adept at suppressing dandelion
top growth than destroying roots and, thus, the dandelion in its
The last thing I can tell you about Sarritor is that, while it won't
harm your grass, it will chew up some closely related dandelion
relatives, such as lettuce plants. There's a possibility it might also
attack chicory and endive, two other dandelion relatives, although
that's just speculation on my part. With that said, as long as you
don't apply Sarritor directly to your lettuce plants, you won't have
to toss the tossed salad.
Now you know what I know. Seeing as new pest-control products are few
and far between, I think I speak on behalf of many prairie gardeners
when I say that I hope the fungus works! After all, I've watched
enough Incredible Hulk episodes to know what happens when mild-
mannered alter egos get mad ... and you won't like us when we're mad.
Hole is a St. Albert, Alta., horticulturist.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix
February 28, 2009
THE SUDBURY STAR
How safe is our water?
Committee formulating a plan to protect our wells
By LARA BRADLEY,
Under a blanket of snow and snow machine tracks, it's easy to forget
about the source of much of the city's drinking water.
Last weekend, cars and trucks -- more than the usual handful of ice
fishers -- drove down the boat launch and onto the ice to park beside
the ice hockey pond tournament on Ramsey Lake.
Under each vehicle hung brown frozen sludge, some of it bumping off
into the snow. Others dripped oil and other muck onto the white.
"It's true a car parked on a lake is a threat that the Source
Protection Committee -- we and you -- would be concerned about," said
Judy Sewell, Drinking Water Source Protection co-ordinator with the
Nickel District Conservation Authority.
But whether the Ministry of the Environment considers it a significant
threat is another matter.
"The MOE wants to make sure we catch the big ones. That not an
excessive time and money is spent
on the minor ones," she said.
A local committee -- three municipal members, three business people
and three members of the public -- has until 2010 to compile a list of
all threats to drinking water sources. It will be relying on the
technical knowledge of five staffers and other experts in the field,
as well as input from the public.
Then, in 2012, it will have to hand in recommendations on how the
threats can be addressed under the banner of a drinking water source
"This is brand new legislation and a brand new program," said Sewell.
"The Clean Water Act was passed in 2006."
Ontario has never had a source water protection plan. The impetus was
the deaths in Walkerton after the town's water source was compromised
by run-off that put manure and E. coli into a municipal well.
Sewell flicks through a presentation, showing a picture taken in the
city's Valley East area that brings Walkerton to mind: a horse grazing
next to a bricked building standing over a wellhead.
"You want the horse out," she said.
Sewell said the horse is in the pathogen zone, an area hydrogeologists
determined to be about 100 metres in circumference around the
"One of Justice O'Connor's recommendations (from the Walkerton
inquiry) is that we protect the sources of our drinking water," said
Not just come up with better ways of treating the water afterwards.
But keep the water as clean as possible from the start.
"The MOE will only approve your plan if there is a significant threat
found, there will have to be something in place."
This committee will have the power to make changes to municipal bylaws
to counter any threats. This could change the way we use our land and
If you look at a map of the Sudbury region in the NDCA office, you'd
be struck by the blue. There's so much water in the 9,150-square-
kilometre area. Three main watersheds course through it: the Wanapitei
River, the Vermillion River and the Whitefish River.
High on the right is our biggest, fattest and bluest asset, Lake
Wanapitei, which, when you stand on its shores, looks like one of the
great lakes, Sewell said. While we tap the river that flows out of it,
we don't take water -- yet -- from the lake itself. But it's being
included in the plan in case the day comes when we would need it.
It would be a massive undertaking to run pipes that far away, said
Benkovich, the city's director of water and wastewater treatment
"But we always have this ace up our sleeve, this very high quality
source of water," he said.
While the City of Greater Sudbury has 24 wells in the outlying areas
of Valley East and Dowling, the area's main sources of water come from
surface water at three stations. Ramsey Lake and the Wanapitei
Treatment plants serve the most residents -- about 90,000 -- and their
waters mix together at a storage facility.
"Ground water does have a lot of protection. Surface water is a little
more vulnerable to anything landing on it," explained Sewell. "It does
get filtering in the aquifer. They still do treat it, but you don't
need as large as a surface treatment plant."
While Sudbury does have an amazing quantity of water, it's the quality
the committee has to protect. Of all its sources lying open to
threats, perhaps Ramsey comes to mind as its most vulnerable.
In some places, like upstate New York and B. C., source waters are
fenced in. No one is allowed near.
"Here, we have everyone and their dog down there. And geese," said
John Lindsay, of the Minnow Lake Restoration committee, the city's
longest running lake stewardship group.
"People phone me from Ramsey all the time," he said. "The weeds, the
water isn't as clear as it used to be or we got algae here. In the
past five years, it has shown a real increase."
He said he also believes the quality of the water is deteriorating.
The appearance last fall of blue-green algal bloom, whose toxins
cannot be treated by municipal water treatment systems nor rectified
by boiling, is another wake-up call. Should you drink or swim in water
contaminated by its blooms as its toxins can irritate the skin, and,
if ingested, cause diarrhea and vomiting. At high enough levels, the
toxins can cause liver and nervous system damage.
Ramsey's water intake pipe
gulps up water in an area kind of out front of the Sudbury Canoe Club.
The province has recommended that about a onekilometre area around the
pipe be designated a protection zone. This zone extends through the
bay, where most of the city's recreational activities play out over
summer and winter -- its main swimming beach, a storm sewer outlet,
Science North, the seat of many of the city's biggest festivals in
Bell Park, and a nearby boat launch. Oh yeah, and there are train
tracks, which bring the threat of a derailment. "It's used a lot. What
do people want? ... It's a community decision," Sewell said. "Ramsey
Lake is a small watershed."
If Bernie Langlois, a 35-year resident of Ramsey Lake, had his way
there would be no motor boats on the lake. However, he'll settle for
shutting down the boat launch and letting residents keep their motors.
"It's almost like an invitation for anyone from 50 miles around to use
Ramsey Lake," he said. "We have 130 lakes in the city of Sudbury. You
don't have to use Ramsey Lake. Use one of the other 129."
Langlois worries about contamination of the waters from fuel, as well
as vegetation and pollution from other lakes visited by the day-
"But let's say that was phased in. Let's stop other people from coming
on the lake."
Other concerns he'd like to share with the committee are the
continually rising level of salt (sodium) in the water, which by law
the city must report to the Sudbury and District Health Unit because
it is two times higher than the level set by the Ontario Drinking
Water Objectives, as well as pesticides and fertilizers that flow off
people's lawns into the lake.
"The city can put a ban on chemical fertilizers and pesticides," he
He believes these human made nutrients are contributing to both the
weed problem and the appearance of the dreaded blue-green algae.
"Now my grandkids won't dive off the end of my dock because the weeds
that are down there are six-feet high. It's like a jungle. That wasn't
there years ago."
He'd like Ramsey to become the city's legacy project.
"It's not a matter of doing something rather prohibiting something.
There's not a lot of cost. Ramsey Lake is the envy of the world. It's
the largest lake within a city in all of Ontario."
Ramsey's salt content is now in the 40-50 milligrams per litre range,
said Ed Gardner, manager of the health unit's environmental health
Ontario's Drinking Water Objectives acceptable standards is half that
-- 20 milligrams per litre. Its rules require a municipality contact
the medical officer of health when the salt content goes beyond that,
so physicians can alert their patients on sodium-restricted diets
about the water.
But to put it in perspective, said Gardner, it's not really a whole
lot of salt when compared to a slice of bread at 149 milligrams per
litre or soup at 1,283 milligrams.
"It's nothing to get really excited about," he said.
But it is continuing to creep up.
"Salt is continuing to increase over time. Again, something we're
working towards," said Benkovich, from his office in water treatment.
The salt is being carried into the lake after being scattered on our
roads. Robert Falcioni, director of roads and transportation for the
city, is well aware of the problem.
"We have a salt management plan to try to reduce the amount of salt
that we use, but it's more dictated by weather," he said. "We try to
make the use as effective and efficient as possible ... We will be
adding some equipment to our trucks to see when and where discharging
Scientist David Pearson, who gave a talk on the decline state of
Ramsey Lake's health at Science North in the early 2000s, isn't so
much worried about the effects of salt on the lake, but rather what
the salt indicates.
"I think that salt is like a flag that tells you that there are other
wastes that are getting in that we don't measure. It's like shining a
light on a whole lot of other effluent and contaminants," Pearson
"Like dog feces, like fertilizer, oil, nickel, copper, lead, heavy
metals, like cadium, some rare metals people haven't heard of."
Basically, whatever you'd vacuum off the Kingsway, part of the
Ramsey's watershed, will eventually make its way into the lake because
of the way the city's storm sewers are designed. Most of the storm
sewers lead to various watersheds from Ramsey's to Junction Creek's.
"I think those measures will involve trying to make the city road run-
off cleaner and some of them perhaps diverted. Systems put into storm
sewage, one of them is a Stormceptor, which is like a settling tank
where those particles often have metals attached to them," Pearson
"You extract some of the metal load that way."
He calls the fact a storm sewer empties beside the main swimming beach
"I don't think that is aesthetically or from a human health point of
view, a desirable strategy. If you were designing a storm sewer outlet
right now I'm quite sure you would not put it right next to the
beach," Pearson said.
The other kind of contaminants storm sewers are bringing to our water
source are, of course, fertilizers that people put on their lawns, as
well as the soap they use in their dishwashers or to clean their cars
"The lakes in this area shouldn't have blue-green algae blooms. Most
of the lakes in this area are low productivity," said Laurentian
University biologist Charles Ramcharan, who does work with the
school's Freshwater Ecology Unit. "Blue-greens are there all the time.
What causes them to bloom is nutrients supplied by humans."
In southern Ontario, Manitoba and the St. Lawrence River, you'd expect
to see blue-green blooms. But not here.
Last year's rainfall may have contributed to the rising phosphorus
levels on the lake. The tipping point for the blooms is about 20 parts
per billion. Over the past decade, Ramsey's levels have bounced around
from 11 to 17, one year exceeding Kelly Lake's readings
"When you have a lake at that concentration, you have to be careful it
doesn't get any worse," said Pearson.
Remember, the only way to deal with blue-green algal blooms is through
prevention. There is no getting rid of them afterwards.
"If you have a year with lots of rainfall like last year, you get a
huge slug from the land and anything people dump on the land. What you
get is a very fast flushing," said Ramcharan. "We're entering a phase
of climate change (and) a lot more variability in our weather."
Climate change may have contributed to last year's heavy precipitation
and higher phosphate load. But a longer warm season, with warmer
nights, can make the phosphate problem worse.
Pearson said we should imagine Ramsey as a bowl of chicken noodle
soup. Now, what if we were to pass a hair dryer over top? The water
would evaporate and we would be left with the noodle and a stronger
flavour of stock.
Same thing with climate change: less water means more phosphates.
A green lawn through chemical or manure fertilizer, anywhere in the
watershed, means a green lake. We don't want a green lake.
"That is a lurking threat to Ramsey that is more important than boats,
even than sodium, and I expect it will be high on the list," said
Pearson. "We don't have to wait for the plan. Good stewardship and
behaviour by everyone who lives on the watershed, not just people on
Lindsay's Minnow Lake Restoration Group has tried to educate the
public through various campaigns about the importance of not
fertilizing lawns and other matters. One year it was by painting
yellow fish near the storm sewer. Another year, they received money
from the city to create a pamphlet that's still handed out today at
events like Earth Day.
"Our big recommendation was always about storm water run-off," he
said. "The surface water run-off is the number one problem."
One of the Minnow Lake group's members has done research on storm
filtration systems, finding a product that can be placed in old
systems for about $25,000.
Benkovich said if it turns out in the final document that storm water
presents a risk to our drinking water, a plan will be developed.
"We will be working closely with the roads and transportation people,"
Falcioni, who is in charge of those very people, said storm sewer
filtration systems could be installed at another urban lake, Nepahwin,
at a cost of about $5 million to outfit five to seven outlets. The
system takes out floatables as well as some of the grit, but has to be
"We had done some preliminary watershed studies on it and it's a small
lake," he said.
There is no immediate infrastructure money earmarked for creating an
alternative to the current storm sewer system, he said.
"As we do projects we look at the water bodies around them."
For instance, as the city works on Paris Street this year, some storm
sewers will be diverted into Lily creek.
"To prevent the potential storm water from going into Lake Ramsey. We
do it on an ongoing basis there is nothing specifically earmarked,"
Others concerned about the quality of our source water are urging
people to take action before 2012, when report comes out.
The city could decide on its own to ban fertilizer/ pesticides in
watershed areas, raise more public awareness around the issues, and
begin to fix the storm sewer system.
And then there is Langlois' idea to shut down the public boat launch,
eliminating a lot of extra traffic to the lake.
"We don't have to wait to 2012," said Pearson.
* Read Accent every Saturday
Continued on A7
- - -
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Johanne Jamieson is the acting co-ordinator of Junction Creek
Stewardship Committee, an organization cleaning it up and creating
awareness about watershed issues. Charles Ramcharan is a biologist at
Laurentian University who researches in freshwater lakes.
* Don't dump stuff down the sewers:"I think that a lot of times people
don't realize that the water goes untreated right into the creek. If
they're not going into Junction Creek, they're going into Lily Creek
or Ramsey Lake."
* Don't fertilize/herbicide your lawn if you live in the watershed:It
will add to the problem of blue-green algal blooms on the lake, said
* Don't wash your car at home:All that soap and oil and gas and
sediment off your vehicles is going into the creek. Go to a car wash
where the effluent will be treated in the municipal waste water
system. Schools and non-profit groups can use the Junction committee's
creek-friendly car washing system for their fundraisers.
* Don't pull out weeds in the lake:There's a law against this. The
weeds absorb phosphorus out of the lake and stabilize the sediment.
Pulling them out mixes it around, causing problems, said Ramcharan.
* Make sure your vehicle is running efficiently: "Anything leaking on
the road is leaking into the storm drains," said Jamieson.
* Don't flick your cigarette butt onto the road or any other
litter:Because it gets washed or blown into the watersheds. "You
wouldn't realize the amount of cigarette butts floating around in the
creek. It's pretty disgusting. There will be a whole dam of cigarette
butts," Jamieson said.
* Use more sand than salt:Homeowners might want to change to sand on
their driveway and pathways. "It can change the chemistry and
temperature of the water," she said.
* Business shouldn't pile up snow near waterways such as the
creek:"That snow again has oil and gas and salt. If it's right next to
the creek, there's no time for it to be filtered by any plants or
gravel. It's pretty much going right down the bank and into the
creek," Jamieson said.
February 28, 2009
The Globe and Mail
HarperCollins/Phyllis Bruce, 273 pages, $32.95
When no birds sing
No creature can overcome the destruction of its habitat, and with less
than 1 per cent of North America's native prairie still remaining, the
loss will be ours as well
GRASS, SKY, SONG
Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds
By Trevor Herriot
The Great Plains region, which stretches from Mexico to the boreal
forests of Northern Canada and from the edge of the eastern forests to
the Rocky Mountains, is a harsh land, prone to Old Testament-style
visitations of drought, violent thunderstorms, hail and long, bitterly
cold winters. The prairie (as we call it in Canada) is too arid to
grow much in the way of forest. But before agriculture arrived, it did
support thousands of species of grasses, plants and animals. For
millennia, in fact, the Great Plains were North America's own
Serengeti, with oceans of tall-grass species (some of which grew
higher than a man on horseback) and hundreds of miles of short-grass
prairie - all of it teeming with millions of bison, plains grizzlies,
buffalo, wolves, swift foxes, ferrets, prairie dogs and other doomed
A little more than a century ago, farmers arrived and got busy
breaking the ancient sod and replacing its perennial grasses with
annual cereal crops. Now, from top to bottom, the region is carpeted
with lab-engineered grains such as canola and wheat. In obscure
corners, tiny patches of native prairie hold out. On these scraps, a
handful of wild bird species are making their last stand, and these
delicate little creatures are the heroes of Trevor Herriot's new book,
Grass, Sky, Song.
Herriot's first book, River in a Dry Land, won a raft of awards and
immediately established him as one of Canada's premier nature writers.
He lives in Regina, where he regularly hosts a local CBC radio show,
during which he chats with listeners calling in to report their latest
experience with birds and wildlife. In Grass, Sky, Song he weaves
personal experience, natural history and bird lore into a sort of book-
length prayer for the preservation of the last native grasslands and
the birds that call them home. The book is illustrated with his
graceful sketches and interspersed with short anecdotes about the
story's main characters.
With Herriot as our guide, we go out on the land and meet birds such
as the Sprague's pipit, which nests in a dome of grass and indulges in
aerial singing displays that might last three hours. He tells us that
in 1873, American ornithologist Elliott Coues first witnessed the
operatic flight of the Sprague's pipit and reported, "There is
something not of the earth in its melody. ... The notes are simply
indescribable, but once heard they can never be forgotten."
We also meet the sage grouse, which stages secret dance competitions
far from prying eyes; the lark bunting, which sings in "a bizarre
choral arrangement of low whistles, toots, and percussive trills and
buzzes"; and the upland sandpiper, which has long, thin legs and an
eye that reminds Herriot of the "shiny button on a child's toy." He
tells us that these birds are capable of heroic feats of survival. The
upland sandpiper, for example, normally finishes its parental duties
in late July, departs from the grasslands of the prairies and flies
over mountains and deserts all the way to southern Argentina, where it
joins the bobolink, the Swainson's hawk and other birds it lives
alongside in Saskatchewan.
Still, no bird can overcome the loss of its habitat, and less than 1
per cent of North America's native prairie still exists. What remains
is fragmented, and this poses its own problems. Agricultural
pesticides in the food web, dramatic increases in such human-allied
predators as raccoons, crows and house cats, and collisions with man-
made structures all add up to what Herriot calls "death by a thousand
North America's grassland birds are in steep decline. Herriot
documents the deterioration of bird populations he has seen in his own
lifetime, and he dreads the day when he will rise at dawn and head out
to his favourite pastures, where he will walk and listen, walk and
listen, and hear nothing.
This is depressing stuff, and Herriot piles it on by showing how the
industrialization of the prairies has diminished human life as well.
His wife is diagnosed with cancer in the middle of the book, and he
presents evidence that breast cancer rates among farm women are nine
times the national average. Mercifully, he concludes on a positive
note, with suggestions of what we can all do to help preserve the last
remnants of native grasslands and the birds that live there. Ranching
tends to be easier on the landscape than farming, and he points out
that people can add value to Western grasslands by restricting their
meat intake to grass-fed beef or, better yet, bison.
Citizens need educating on these issues, and the book could have
benefited from more. Herriot devotes considerable energy to lobbying
for a sort of moral transformation in our relationship to nature
(followed, one assumes, by world peace). But he would do better to
offer suggestions for nuts-and-bolt tactics by which everyday people
could fight the good fight. He doesn't, for example, mention the
importance of donating a few dollars to conservation agencies such as
Ducks Unlimited (which has preserved vast swaths of native prairie
across the West, including the sweeping and wondrous Missouri Coteau),
and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which has used public donations
to protect 25,000 acres of wild grasslands.
Conservationist groups, ranchers, farmers, birders, waterfowl hunters
and others are noted for squabbling. A writer of Herriot's stature is
presumably above all this, but the book's conclusion might have been
stronger if he had examined the problem of intramural bickering and
discussed strategies for working together.
But this is no more than a minor quibble with a book that is as
beautifully rendered as the land it celebrates. The writing, the
illustrations and the design all rise to the level of art. And with
the warm days of spring just up the gravel road, Grass, Sky, Song is a
mandatory buy for anyone who cares about birds and wild places.
Jake MacDonald's new book, Grizzlyville; Adventures in Bear Country,
will be published in April.
Congress Considers Reform of U.S. Chemicals Control Law
By J.R. Pegg
WASHINGTON, DC, February 26, 2009 (ENS) - The U.S. chemical regulatory
system is failing to protect public health and the environment and is
in dire need of reform, experts told a House panel Thursday. The legal
hurdles of existing law make it virtually impossible for the federal
government to limit or ban the use of toxic chemicals or to even
obtain the information needed to devise effective regulations, several
witnesses testified before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.
The hearing focused on the effectiveness of the Toxic Substances
Control Act. Enacted in 1976, the statute gave the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency the authority to regulate chemicals.
But the agency has only required testing for some 200 of the more than
82,000 chemicals in commerce and has issued regulations to control
only five existing chemicals.
This record reflects a number of "very difficult, perhaps impossible,
requirements that must be met before a chemical can be regulated,"
said J. Clarence Davies, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future
and former EPA assistant administrator for policy in under President
George H.W. Bush.
The statute requires EPA to show that a proposed chemical regulation
is less burdensome than any alternative and that the risk could not be
sufficiently reduced under some other law. Furthermore, it must show a
chemical presents an "unreasonable risk" to human health.
The combination of the requirements creates a burden so high "that it
is essentially impossible to meet," said Richard Denison, a senior
scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.
Asbestos sold as fireproof Christmas decorating snow (Photo by
Few examples expose the shortcomings of the law as brutally as the
case of asbestos, Denison and others said at the hearing.
EPA tried to ban asbestos, a known carcinogen, under the Toxic
Substances Control Act in 1989, after spending nearly a decade
gathering evidence about health risks from the fibrous mineral.
But in 1991 a federal court blocked EPA's effort, ruling that the
agency had failed to meet the legal hurdles outlined by the Act.
"I think most Americans would be surprised to know that asbestos, a
known carcinogen, that kills 8,000 Americans each and every year has
not been banned by EPA under TSCA," said Representative Bobby Rush, an
Illinois Democrat and chair of the House Commerce, Trade, and Consumer
Protection Subcommittee, which held the hearing.
The asbestos case is only one example that the law is "badly broken,"
Denison said, noting that the failures of the Toxic Substances Control
Act are also illustrated in the regulatory debacle that exposed some
survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to dangerous levels of
Superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools, Ora Watson, stocks the
cupboards of her FEMA travel trailer after her home was destroyed by
Hurricane Katrina. March 1, 2006. (Photo by Marvin Nauman courtesy
Some of the formaldehyde-laden plywood in the trailers provided by the
U.S. government to survivors of the 2005 hurricanes was imported from
China, Denison said.
That same plywood cannot be sold domestically in China nor imported
into Japan or the European Union, he explained, because those
countries have set limits due to health concerns from the chemical.
California also has regulations that sets limits on the amount of
formaldehyde allowed in plywood and other wood products, but EPA last
year rejected a petition calling on the federal government to adopt
the California standard.
The EPA said the "available information on formaldehyde - one of the
most studied toxic chemicals in all of commerce - was insufficient for
EPA to meet its burden of proof under TSCA," Denison said. "As bad as
this sounds, what's worse is that EPA is likely right about its
inability to act under TSCA."
The law is also failing to gather information on new chemicals,
testified John Stephenson, director of natural resources and
environment with the Government Accountability Office, the
investigative arm of Congress.
"TSCA does not require chemical companies to test the approximately
700 new chemicals introduced into commerce annually for their
toxicity, and companies generally do not voluntarily perform such
testing," Stephenson told the committee.
This label identifies a toxic chemical, but not all toxics are
labeled. (Photo credit unknown)
Last month the Government Accountability Office added EPA's chemical
management program to its list of government programs at "high risk"
of failure, repeating its long-running concern that the Toxic
Substances Control Act does not provide the agency with enough
authority to effectively regulate chemicals.
The public is losing confidence in the regulatory system and is ready
for reform, said witness Maureen Swanson, a coordinator with the
Learning Disabilities Association of America.
"When people find out that the vast majority of chemicals used in
products and services are not tested for health effects, first they
are dumbfounded - and then they are outraged," she told the panel.
"American consumers should have the assurance that if a product is on
a store shelf, then its ingredients have been tested and found to be
The public's concern has gotten the attention of industry, which has
indicated support for revising the statute - albeit not to the extent
others are demanding.
"We are supportive of a modernization of our chemical management
system that is done in a manner which enhances the public's confidence
that consumers and users of our products have," said Cal Dooley, head
of the American Chemistry Council.
Industry representatives suggested they could support stricter testing
and information requirements, but sought to caution lawmakers against
dramatic changes to a system they have widely supported for the past
A few of the thousands of chemicals in use in the United States (Photo
by Peter Eiper)
The Toxic Substances Control Act has been "a flexible law that has
protected human health and the environment without crippling
technological innovation," said V.M. DeLisi, president of Fanwood
Chemical Inc. "It does not require a complete overhaul but can be
Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners
Association, urged lawmakers to resist calls to implement a system
similar to the new European Union chemical management program. Known
as REACH, the European system takes a precautionary approach to
chemicals management and shifts to industry the burden of proving
chemicals are safe.
U.S. industry groups contend the European system is too costly and
REACH is "new and untested," Drevna said. "We have not yet begun to
see what the impact of REACH will have on chemicals management in the
EU or its effect on the European economy."
Republicans on the subcommittee largely echoed such concerns and
promised to ensure reform efforts do not overreach.
Congressional review of the law could show that it is "fine and that
more funding and enforcement would cure various criticisms," said
Representative George Radanovich, a California Republican. "If that is
the case, let us be surgical … if something more is needed, we should
not use an elephant gun to kill a mosquito."
Ohio Democrat Zack Space countered that lawmakers also should be
careful not to underreach with their reform efforts, given the weight
of evidence documenting the failings of Toxic Substances Control Act,
saying. "We should not use a bug light to kill an elephant."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.
Warning Industry Propaganda Below
February 28, 2009
Pesticide review lacking credibility
Dear Editor - Re: "Supporting Bill 64 is 'a no-brainer' " (Guelph
Mercury, Feb. 13).
Another round of pro and anti-pesticide letters in the paper.
Unfortunately, the health care field in general has decided to use as
their reference the review done by the Ontario College of Family
If it is any consolation, so did Premier Dalton McGuinty.
It has no credibility at all and has been panned by scientists both in
Canada and in the U.K.
However, don't take my word for it. Check out www.pesticides.gov.uk
I am old enough to remember when newspapers did research to ensure
that they provided their reading public with fact, not fiction. Yes, I
am that old!
Small wonder there is so much confusion surrounding pesticides these
I will not rehash the preponderance of science that is out there
supporting the theory that pesticides, used properly, are perfectly
Reputable scientists have provided this information for years.
This would not be a big issue if it were merely a "he said, she said"
situation with no consequences.
But there are consequences.
The Canadian Cancer Society continues to insist there is a link
between pesticides and cancer and their promotional literature is
geared accordingly. The American Cancer Society is not of the same
opinion -- "only in Canada, eh!"
The money raised by the Canadian Cancer Society for research is
channelled according to their beliefs. I no longer give them one red
I want my money to be spent doing research to discover what is the
cause -- not trying to prove an incorrect theory. Millions have
already been spent on research to discover if there is a link -- and
Yes, farmers are allowed to use pesticides to protect their crops yet
homeowners, growing vegetables in their own backyard to help make ends
meet, are prohibited. You can play golf on grass treated with
pesticides, yet you can't walk across your own private lawn treated
with the same pesticides.
Where is the sense in this? Oops, I forgot. No sense, no science. Just
-- Sandra Solomon, RR 1 Puslinch
See sample of previous Sandra Solomon (of Puslinch, Ontario) and
Keith Solomon ( also of Puslinch, Ontario) letters to the editor below
concerning banning pesticides.....
Dec 14, 2007
Awaiting answers on pesticide ban
RE: Province moving forward Review, December 7
I realize that The Hon. Ted McMeekin is a very busy person but I hope
he will take the time to respond to three points I make in reference
to his comment (relating to the Provincial ban on "cosmetic"
pesticides): "There is a unanimity of opinion amongst experts. It
makes sense to move forward with restrictions on the cosmetic use of
1. Definition of an expert: "Person with special skill or knowledge in
a specific field; skillful; proficient through practice or training."
Could Mr. McMeekin please supply me with the names of the "experts" he
is referring to and where I might find their published literature
supporting his statement? All the experts I am aware of, both
international and local, in fact agree that pesticides can be safely
used, provided that label directions are followed.
2. Pesticides, like tobacco, are legal in Canada and one cannot ban
their sale. Tobacco products, unlike pesticides, have been
scientifically shown to be harmful to one's health. Premier McGuinty
is going to be banning or restricting the sale of pesticides - and he
is going to be banning or restricting the sale of tobacco
3. Science aside, let's look at the logic of this ban/restriction.
Residential (cosmetic) pesticides make up between 2 and 5 per cent of
all pesticide use, the remaining 95 per cent is used in agriculture.
The government wants to remove 5 per cent of the danger and leave 95
per cent to be used on crops which they are then going to encourage
the good citizens of Ontario to ingest ("encourage residents and
businesses to buy food locally grown").
One thing Mr. McMeekin failed to note is that if you want to be safe
from the harmful effects of pesticides, you should play golf (golf
courses are exempt from the ban). To make absolutely sure, you should
probably also become a farmer. I await a response.
Sandra Solomon, Puslinch
Feb 16, 2007
Pesticides: find a workable model
Jennifer Trott's letter of Feb. 9 only adds to the confusion about
I have conducted research on pesticides for many years and have
advised a number of governments and international agencies on their
regulation. Ms. Trott is obviously unaware of some very basic facts
Pesticides are substances that control or mitigate pests. By
definition, these also include swimming pool chemicals and the
naturally occurring pesticides such as pyrethrins, rotenone, and
biological control agents favored by organic growers. What they have
in common is that they cause effects in target organisms (pests).
Some pesticides are very toxic to non-target organisms, some
essentially innocuous. A few pertinent, scientific facts that relate
to pesticide use for landscape and aesthetic purposes:
1. Compared to the total use of pesticides in Canada, only a small
percentage (2-5%) is used for landscape and home gardens.
2. Landscape and home-use pesticides do not include most of the
pesticides used in agriculture. Generally, they have lesser toxicity
to mammals and other non-target organisms, small persistence, little
mobility in the environment and are only sold in small quantities.
Most agricultural pesticides cannot be purchased or applied by a
3. Landscape pesticides do not build up in the environment or humans -
if they did, they would not be allowed for use. For examples, the
herbicide 2,4-D has a half life in soils of about two weeks and no
persistence beyond season of use. It has low mobility, is not
bioconcentrated into organisms, is not bioaccumulated over time and
not biomagnified up the food-chain.
4. A report of the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP)
indicated that there was a link between cancer and pesticides. Two
independent and disinterested parties in the UK reviewed the report
and found it contained no information to raise concerns and the
conclusions of the OCFP report should be treated with caution.
5. When all relevant factors are taken into account (people living
longer, increased population, lifestyle changes, early detection,
better diagnostic tools), The National Cancer Institute of Canada's
databases do not indicate an increase in incidence of most cancers
and, for the few that show small increases, there are more plausible
explanations than pesticides.
Ms. Trott's letter was in response to a letter relating to Mayor Fred
Eisenberger's statement that he plans to have Council ban the cosmetic
use of pesticides. Using this label for a pesticide is a value
judgement and, given the toxicological expertise on most councils, is
not based on health issues and is equivalent to banning hair dye or
shaving, both of which are "cosmetic".
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right of municipalities to pass
any by-laws - and if the Hamilton City Council wishes to enact a by-
law banning the aesthetic use of pesticides, they are entitled to do
that - but I trust they will not try to use science to shore up their
Some cities across Canada have already imposed bans on pesticide use
for aesthetic uses, only to find that it is a virtually unenforceable
Perhaps a more sensible approach would be to educate the residents of
Hamilton to the benefits of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), where
all methods of control are used. Most farmers across Canada practice
IPM and have found they can still produce an excellent crop and, at
the same time, save themselves money. I have yet to meet anyone who
would spend money on pesticides if they could use an equally
effective, less expensive method.
Perhaps the thing that saddens me the most about the willingness of
society to blame all illnesses on pesticides, despite a preponderance
of credible science to show otherwise, is that it is slowing the drive
to find the real culprits.
Prof. Keith Solomon, Fellow ATS,
ONTARIO NEW HOME WARRANTIES PLAN ACT Revised Statutes of Ontario ...
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
KEITH & SANDRA SOLOMON. AND IN THE MATTER OF the DECISION of ... KEITH
& SANDRA SOLOMON. Applicants. - and -. TARION WARRANTY CORPORATION.
===================== Blog Gadgets