Thursday, January 28, 2010
DR. IAN SIMPSON
The Western Star
Prior to, and during the Christmas season, there were several letters to the St. John’s Telegram about the use of, and place for, pesticides in Newfoundland communities.
There were the expected letters from people opposed to the “cosmetic” use on dandelions, etc., and I should make it plain that I support such a ban. But there was one rather strident letter from a Mr. Barry which seemed to claim he was speaking for Landscape Newfoundland and Labrador.
He said that the statements of the coalition concerning the removal of “cosmetic pesticides” was “junk science” and would have economic consequences for communities that went pesticide free.
He is totally wrong in claiming that the science is “junk.” Science is not simply that one person’s opinion is as good as another’s, i.e. that Mr. Barry’s opinion is as good as the many scientists, from reputable universities and laboratories, who have painstakingly done the epidemiological and environmental studies that have shown beyond question that there are links between pesticide use and human disease.
Science always questions things and repeats studies and this is how true knowledge advances. Repeated studies show the same result.
Certain human illnesses are definitely increased by exposure to pesticides. Here are some examples:
Certain cancers, especially the leukemias and lymphomas are clearly and particularly involved. Other cancers such as breast cancer and brain cancer seem to be increased where the exposure is increased but the correlation is not as strong as for the lymphomas which are seven to eight times more common in those occupations with high exposure to pesticides.
Recent well-designed studies in the U.S. show that the rate of birth defects was directly related to the concentrations of pesticide in the community water source during the first three months of pregnancy. In these studies, the pesticides involved were the same type of herbicide that is used on lawns to control weeds worldwide — in Newfoundland as well as in the corn fields in the U.S.A.
Parkinson’s disease incidence is clearly increased in relationship to the degree of exposure and this is a disease that is becoming more common.
So the debate, or argument, should not be about the science ... these are facts.
The debate should be about the risk versus benefit.
The coalition is not arguing about the place of pesticides in commercial agriculture, clearly there are benefits to their use in commercial agriculture — although there is certainly plenty of room to look at agricultural practice, as organic farmers are doing successfully and reduce pesticide use. The coalition is asking that pesticides be removed, through legislation, from cosmetic use in our communities.
The argument that it is too steep a price for lawn care companies to pay does not stand up to examination.
Since the municipal ban on pesticides in Toronto and Halifax, there has been an increase in the economic sector of landscape, gardening and lawn care companies.
In Halifax, in the five years since their ban, the number of lawn care companies grew from 118 to 180, a 53 per cent increase. Statscan reports that the number of landscaping and lawn care companies has grown each year since the city passed a pesticide ban.
The large retailers are following this shift in Ontario and Quebec. Home Depot claims that some of their locations have increased their organic and eco-chemicals by 29 per cent and reduced the availability and sales of the traditional chemicals.
It is clear to me that public perception about the use of chemical pesticide use for cosmetic purposes is changing. More than 129 Canadian municipalities have enabled bylaws that restrict the use of non-essential chemical pesticides for cosmetic reasons. It seems only reasonable, especially in view of the scientific studies and of the epidemiological data, that we as a society should adopt the precautionary principle, be sensible about our health and enact a provincial ban on non-essential use of these pesticides.
At their recent annual general meeting, Municipalities of Newfoundland and Labrador supported this position on a motion brought by the mayor of Mount Pearl, whose municipality supports this proposed ban.
St. John’s councillor Shelagh O’Leary has written letters supporting such a ban. It is time for other municipalities, especially Corner Brook, to examine this proposal and do likewise.
Mr. Barry please do your research. Look at the science. Look at those municipalities that now realize that there is economic benefit to your business by going “green” and eliminating unnecessary pesticides. Local folks, please pressure your member of Parliament and your city and community councils about this issue. We hope it will be up for debate by government very soon. Blog Gadgets
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Some people would say that I am a member of that blind and loud anti-spraying group who are against the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes; however that does not make me an anti-landscaper.
What I am is a person who would like to be able to go outside and walk around St. John's, Mount Pearl or any other community in our province without having to worry about inhaling any so-called "plant health product."
As of now, I can't even be guaranteed of that, since spraying can take place about two doors down from me.
So much for Canada or our province having a strenuous regulatory system. I don't remember giving permission to be used in an experiment where these pesticides are used.
Forgive me if I don't feel safe because Health Canada supposedly regulates those products.
Could our provincial and federal governments be influenced by the fact that the ornamental horticulture industry in our province is worth over $90 million? That makes a rich, large lobbying group which is able to shout loudly behind the scenes and bend the ear of governments.
After all, isn't it the legal right of rich organizations to contribute money to political parties in Canada to ensure political success?
At the opposite end there are politicians of the people, like St. John's city councillor Sheilagh O'Leary, who was recently elected and listened to independent citizens and independent professional groups like the Canadian Association of Physicians for the environment.
Recently, Gideon Forman, executive director of that association gave this professional opinion: "Recent scientific studies have show that people exposed to pesticides are at a greater risk for very serious medical conditions..." In addition, Dr. David Saltman, chair of oncology at Memorial University stated on June 16 in this newspaper, "We are all at risk from the toxicities of pesticide use. Young children may be more vulnerable..."
But don't take their word as gospel: be sure to call the offices of any lawn (but not human) care company and get the results from their "unbiased" scientific research.
They were supported by Coun. Wally Collins at a recent St. John's city council meeting who stated that some pesticides were made from plant roots "and you can eat that, right?"
Send in the clowns.
DR. IAN SIMPSON
The Western Star
My letter last week about cosmetic use of pesticides has promoted some discussion both in The Western Star printed edition and its web edition.
I would like to reply to Tuesday’s letter from Lorne Hepworth of CropLife Canada.
He states “we can rest assured that before any pesticide is sold in Canada it undergoes comprehensive scientific review and risk assessment by Health Canada.”
Health Canada has created PMRA — the Pesticide Management and Regulatory Agency — which is the responsible body for reviewing all the studies submitted. But there are problems:
- Underfunding — in 2002, $8 million of the funding was from the pesticide industry.
- PMRA does not conduct its own in-house laboratory work. It reviews the research provided — most of it from industry sources and most of it not published in peer reviewed literature.
- The industry requests PMRA to treat the material as “proprietary.” So this science remains hidden.
- PMRA relies mainly on U.S.A. studies (80 per cent of the studies reviewed in the early part of the decade.)
- Health Canada has a track record of approving pesticides, only to later phase them out due to health and environmental concerns. Examples: DDT, Eldrin, Diazinon, Dursan, Mecoprop.
- PMRA does not evaluate other chemicals in the formulation, so- called “inerts,” or the breakdown products.
Mr. Hepworth goes on to say “As for benefits ... well maintained public and private spaces make for happier healthier communities.” Happier I will not debate, but healthier? This I will argue is nonsense. In the comments on the web page, DB from NL worries at the use of the word “linked” when commenting on the link between pesticide exposure and different diseases. DB would like hard numbers and quantification.
I have great sympathy with this position, as epidemiology studies basically compare a cohort population that is exposed — in this case say to a group of farmers exposed to a pesticide — with a cohort matched as far as possible. These studies are almost always repeated to try to correct for possible biases — age, gender, race, smoking rates, etc.
To do a controlled double blind trial, as is done with prescription pharmaceutical drugs, is not possible. It would be totally unethical to deliberately expose a population to an insecticide and give a matched population an inert substance without either group knowing what they were being given and follow them for a very long time.
Cancers have a long latent period before being manifest. Just look at tobacco and smoking.
There are good websites available that give access to valid scientific studies that document the relationship between pesticides and disease time and time again ... and science has been showing this relationship for many, many years.
The following resources will, I think, convince DB from NL.
Look them up:
- Environmental health perspectives. Asthma 10 times commoner in children exposed to pesticides before age one.
- Medpage Today — Aberdeen University. Parkinson’s disease increased with exposure to pesticides. Low exposure nine per cent. High exposure, i.e. farmers, 45 per cent increase.
- Pubmed. These next studies show that exposure to pesticides in pregnancy increases the incidence of birth defects. This study shows that women in California living within 500 yards of fields being sprayed are 75 per cent more likely to have birth defects.
- Acta Paediatrica. A study of birth defects showed an increase for women who started their pregnancies in April to July. During those months the levels of nitrates, atrazine and other pesticides in the ground water were much higher than in other months
- American Journal of Epidemiology
- Globe and Mail April 2009
But the statistical correlation between the pesticide and the disease convinces me and most of the medical profession, especially those of us who see patients with these diseases. There is a relationship.
http://www.thewesternstar.com/index.cfm?sid=322010&sc=154 Blog Gadgets
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
St. John's Daily Spray Advisory
My Past Articles
More enforcement needed for pesticide spray regulations
The Western Star (Corner Brook) - Final - 10-01-2002 - 413 words
Karen Griffin - Judie Squires says someone needs to patrol the companies that spray residential areas for pesticides because she's observed nine violations of the Environmental Protection Act in her Paradise neighborhood alone…
Spray woes: Province falling down on monitoring pesticides
The Telegram (
Judie Squires - environment to become poisoned? A temporary ban on all residential pesticides has to be put into place, to protect us, our wildlife and our environment as a whole. Judie Squires
Government lax on cosmetic pesticide regulation: advocate
The Telegram (
Stokes Sullivan, Deana - Despite increased awareness about adverse health effects from pesticides, Judie Squires, a member of the Pesticide Working Group of
Woman doesn't expect cosmetic pesticide ban any time soon
The Western Star (Corner Brook) - 08-30-2004 - 712 words
Stokes Sullivan, Deana - Despite increased awareness about adverse health effects from pesticides, Judie Squires, a member of the Pesticide Working Group of Newfoundland and Labrador, isn't optimistic that the province will ban the…
Province lagging behind in pesticide control
The Telegram (
Squires, Judie - it to do is to prohibit the cosmetic use of synthetic pesticides altogether in order to protect our citizens and the environment. Judie Squires writes from Portugal Cove-St. Philip's…
The two sides to pesticide use
The Telegram (
Judie Squires - health of your families. When
Inquiry implicates BTk
The Telegram (
DEANA STOKES SULLIVAN - of trees. The live spores can be inhaled by humans and animals exposed to BT. Judie Squires, secretary of the Northeast Avalon Group of the Sierra Club, says despite claims that…
Delayed pesticide laws 'disappointing'
The Telegram (
DEANA STOKES SULLIVAN - at the end of this year. These products will only be sold to certified dealers. Judie Squires, secretary of the newly formed Northeast Avalon Group of the Sierra Club, isn't…
Above Articles available through Trancontinental Newsnet
Time for provincial lawn pesticide regulation
The Telegram (
pesticides. Please join me in lobbying our province for a pesticide ban Judie Squires Portugal Cove...