Pesticides in Canada are widespread and commonly used in households- yet few Canadians are informed about the negative effects of these chemicals. Pesticide regulation in Canada is seen as inadequate by many and pesticides are promoted as “safe”; the risks associated with their use minimized. The continued use of pesticides in Canada contributes to a build-up of harmful chemicals in the environment.
According to Canadian studies, DDT and DDE residual levels in the breast milk to Inuit women in the Eastern Arctic are 1210 parts per billion, compared to 171 parts per billion in women in Southern Ontario. The extreme levels of persistent pesticides in Arctic people and animals high on the food chain are largely a result of transboundary transport and bioaccumulation. Similar build-ups of other harmful pesticides have been recorded in various parts of Canada including the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River and the Prairies.
Over 34 million kilograms of pesticides are used annually across Canada. According to the National Research Council, expenditures on pesticides have doubled between 1980 and 1990 and have increased eightfold since 1970.
The negative effects of pesticides in the Canadian environment are already evident and well documented. For example, autopsies performed on a group of Canada Geese that died inexplicably near Simcoe Ontario in September 1996 revealed that the grass and clover found in their digestive systems contained diazinon-a lethal chemical used on lawns. The birds were reported to have been behaving erratically and showed signs of blood in the feces and mucus streaming from their mouths.
In another incident in Manitoba, a 13 kilometer stretch of trees was wiped out by the chemical Roundup (a broadleaf pesticide, chemical name glyphospate) that was sprayed on nearby fields. Roundup is promoted by industry as a safe pesticide, despite the fact that it has proved to be far more toxic than its initial registration revealed.
The Health and Environment program area’s Pesticide Reduction program works directly with the federal government on pesticide issues through many stakeholder committees including the Pest Management Advisory Council and the Healthy Lawns Labelling Subcommittee.