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numberfour //
Pesticides and Herbicides

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The saturation of our cosmetic lawns with chemical pesticides and herbicides has increased every year for the past 20 summers. We seldom hear or read about this in the media and the big tanker trucks full of pesticides reappear each spring and pour millions of gallons of noxious pesticides, herbicides and liquid fertilizer chemicals all summer until the snow falls again. They leave little WARNING PESTICIDE USE signs with long lists of very strange chemicals with registered numbers. Our lawns get more pesticides per acre than farmers use on their farms by a factor of 5. We have neat cosmetic dead zones of carpet grass without dandelions, weeds, worms, honeybees, ladybugs or natural pollination. The children who play on these contaminated lawns cannot read the warning signs while they play in the chemical soup.

You are probably conditioned to think that if there is something wrong, the government will put it right. And the government may eventually put it right. They did with DDT after 25 years and thalidomide after hundreds of deformed children were born and ureafermaldahide after years of encouraging people to have it inserted into the walls of their houses. The lawn-care companies emphasize the number of people they employ and the fact that their pesticides and herbicides are registered with the government. This might imply that because they are registered, they are safe. DDT was registered with the government. After 30 years of use, wildlife biologists discovered it was killing all the birds. It was banned in 1972 but 27 years later it is still in the environment. A study on organochlorine pesticides, sponsored by the Quebec Health Ministry, showed between 95% and 98% of breast milk samples analyzed contained either aldrin, DDT or lindane. In each case, 3% of the samples contained more than the permissible level for cows milk. Only farms were sprayed with DDT back then and it is still here but now we have stronger, deadlier organochlorine pesticides on 67% of our lawns. We have uncontrolled use of poisons where our children play while we wait complacently for the shoe to drop.

A number of Canadian towns already have bylaws banning the cosmetic use of pesticides. Experience in Quebec demonstrated that the lawn-care companies disregarded these bylaws which had then to be tested in the higher courts. Hudson was the first town to ban cosmetic use of pesticides (May 1991). Another bylaw in Cote St Luc provided for neighbors to be notified in advance. Point Claire added chemical fertilizers to their bylaw. Ottawa-Carleton became the biggest municipality in the country to stop cosmetic use of herbicides on its lands. Other towns, also in the Montreal area, enacted pesticide bylaws: Senneville, St Lambert, Mount Royal, Dorval, Lachine, Cote St. Luc and St Lazare. North Vancouver also has a pesticide-control bylaw. Halifax becomes the first major municipality in North America to restrict the use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides from residential and municipal properties. People who live within 50 metres of a household registered to someone who suffers from environmental sensitivities will not be able to use certain pesticides on their property. Pesticides will also be forbidden on properties near schools, day cares, playgrounds, parks, universities and churches, among others. By 2003, the city plans to impose a general ban of pesticides on all residential properties.

Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto are also considering pesticide restrictions amid fierce opposition from commercial lawn companies and city officials.

The best known herbicide is 2,4-D kills dandelions banned in Sweden. It is not listed on those little WARNING PESTICIDE USE signs although 2,4-D accounts for one quarter of Canadas herbicide consumption. It was part of the chemical compound known as Agent Orange that was used as a defoliant in Vietnam and left a legacy of cancers, miscarriages and birth defects.
Dursban (Chlorpyrifos)
The US Government banned most home uses of the pesticide Dursban -- the most widely used pesticide in the US -- due to health risks including blurred vision and memory loss. The EPA in the US established a 24-hour reentry interval for entering crop areas treated with chlorpyrifos (Dursban) without protective clothing. These organophosphates chemicals act by interfering with the activities of cholinesterase, an enzyme that is essential for the proper working of the nervous systems of both humans and insects.

The Ontario Environment Bill of Rights (1994) states that any resident can now hold the government accountable for what it does - and what it does not do - to protect the environment. Unfortunately Canadians have been conditioned by their history, the media and their governments to be complacent.

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