By introducing Bill 61, the province of Nova Scotia took a proactive stance, one that ensures chemicals must be proved to be safe before that can be used in the province. This is a truly progressive step, one that will protect our health, create green jobs in organic lawncare and landscaping, and save tax dollars spent on health care. This document was submitted by Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of Sierra Club Atlantic to the NS Law Amendments Committee.
To Members of the Nova Scotia Law Amendments Committee:
Thank you for your attention today.
Thank you for introducing this ban on cosmetic pesticides in Nova Scotia.
Sierra Club Canada volunteers and staff have worked long and hard toward this day. I would like to acknowledge in particular Emily MacMillan, former Director of the Atlantic Canada Chapter and volunteers with the Mud Creek Group of Sierra Club Atlantic who have worked to protect human health and biodiversity by pushing for municipal and provincial pesticide bans.
As a person with a background in biology, what strikes one immediately when looking at the pesticide issue is the lack of understanding regarding impacts of these chemicals on human health and the environment. These impacts should be understood before chemicals or chemical cocktails are released into the environment. To place human health at risk for cosmetic application of pesticides when there are ample safe alternatives does not seem consistent with the principles of sustainability and precaution.
By introducing Bill 61, the province is taking a proactive stance, one that ensures chemicals must be proved to be safe before that can be used in this province. This is a truly progressive step, one that will protect our health, create green jobs in organic lawncare and landscaping, and save tax dollars spent on health care.
Evidence is mounting regarding the impact of pesticides on human health and the environment. Some of the most striking examples include:
- A literature review performed by Ontario College of Family Physicians on the use of pesticides have found links between pesticide use and several types of cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, asthma, damage to developing fetuses, including induced abortions, etc. Alarmingly, impacts can even span of three generations, with exposure to pesticides during development of reproductive organs in the fetus of a female child increasing the risk of that fetus’ children of developing cancer.
- Because cosmetic pesticides are used in areas frequented by children, a group that is extremely vulnerable to exposure to pesticides because of their small size, propensity to be in close contact surfaces to which pesticides are applied, and inability to metabolize toxins as effectively as adults, it is extremely urgent that we act to ban cosmetic pesticide use.
- The use of pesticides has implications for biodiversity and ecosystem services. For instance, evaluation of the impacts of the pesticide Round-up on amphibians (one of the most threatened animal groups globally) found 96-100% mortality of larval frogs and 68-86% mortality of juvenile frogs (Relyea, 2005).
We would like to take this opportunity to formally submit our recommendations regarding the Non-essential Pesticides Control Act, Bill 61:
- Bill 61 takes a ‘guilty until proven safe’ approach to pesticides, which is the stance more jurisdictions should adopt. However the definition of “low risk” pesticides is left to be defined within regulations. We would ask that “low risk” be defined explicitly within the legislation as independent proof of safety for exposure to vulnerable segments of the population (children, developing fetuses, pregnant women, elderly), as well as vulnerable species (i.e. amphibians). The Bill should explicitly state that it upholds the precautionary approach (i.e. lack of scientific certainty is not proof of safety) when defining low risk pesticides.
- The Bill contains four references to exceptions to the ban (Sections 4 (1) and (2) and 5 (1) and (2)), opening the door to allowing pesticides to be used. These exceptions will be defined by regulations not yet established. As noted in the Minister of Environment’s announcement last Tuesday, the public’s response to pesticide ban consultations has been overwhelming in terms of volume (number of responses) and support for a ban. It would be counterproductive and misleading of the government to loosen the pesticide ban during development of regulations. We request that the sections of the ban allowing for exceptions be removed.
- Public consultations must be carried out regarding the regulation of this ban. The body performing and developing the regulation of the ban must not include members of the pesticide industry.
- Referring once again to exemptions contained in the regulations, the existing exemptions could allow for Integrated Pest Management to be introduced as an exemption to the ban. You must not allow Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to be introduced as an exemption. IMP can actually result in increased use of pesticides (this is documented in Ottawa and Calgary – leading Ottawa to explicitly stop IPM on its own properties). We cannot allow the same mistakes to occur here in Nova Scotia.
- Bill 61 should include banning use on driveways and walkways, as well as explicitly state it applies to commercial residential, and municipal land.
- Buffer zones around wells must be established in the regulations in order to protect drinking water. In Oregon no spraying is allowed within a radius that could contaminate a well in ten years. A similar safe buffer zone must be designated in the ban that will protect drinking water.
- Residential or non-commercial vegetable gardens should be included in the ban. This will protect the public from use of pesticides in close proximity to homes, as well as simplify enforcement.
- Golf courses should be required to adopt five-year phase out plan for use of cosmetic pesticides, in concert with training programs for organic landscaping.
- Public education is necessary to ensure this ban is effective. Sierra Club and other environmental groups have developed educational materials for organic gardening, how to effectively and diplomatically approach your neighbour if you suspect pesticide use, and safe disposal of pesticides. The government should work with the environmental community to produce similar outreach materials to improve the effectiveness of the pesticide ban and reduce enforcement costs (please see attached leaflet: 10 Steps to Non-Toxic Lawn Care).
- The Bill currently gives an upper limit for fines for violation of the legislation. We suggest these be changed to a lower limit for violations and remove the existence of an upper limit for fines.
- For five years after its introduction, Minister of Environment should report annually on effectiveness of the ban by submitting data on inspection reports, fines issued, and rate of pesticide poisonings reported, such as the IWK’s Regional Poison Centre.
In closing, I would like to commend you all for taking a courageous step toward protecting our children and biodiversity. It is a step that the majority of Nova Scotians support. Making this Bill effective will be an important part of our legislated commitment to become world leaders in sustainability by 2020.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak on the subject of Bill 61, the Non-essential Pesticides Control Act. I hope you will take these recommendations to heart when amending the bill.