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Take pesticide review one step further, Cancer Society suggests

The P.E.I. Division of the Canadian Cancer Society is pleased with a review by P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office looking at the potential human health effects from pesticide exposure, but would have liked to see the health office recommend a cosmetic pesticide ban.

Findings support ban on cosmetic pesticides, group says

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office has concluded pesticides 'do not pose a significant public health risk' in the province. (CBC)

The P.E.I. Division of the Canadian Cancer Society is pleased with a review by P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office looking at the potential human health effects from pesticide exposure, but would have liked to see the health office take a stronger stand as a result of its own research findings.

The society said the review reflects its own position: that there may be a connection between certain types of cancer and exposure to some pesticides.

But the Cancer Society said the findings in the report support a ban on cosmetic pesticides, although there was no such recommendation in either of two reports from the Chief Public Health Office.

"We would have liked to have seen a further step as it relates to cosmetic pesticides in the least,  where again that benefit is a much more debatable thing when you're talking about something purely cosmetic in nature," said Lori Barker, executive director of the P.E.I. Division of the Canadian Cancer Society.

"We appreciate other issues like tobacco control are certainly huge, it might play a much more significant role, but there is a small step here that could be made … looking out for the general health of the public."

After comparing disease rates in P.E.I. with the rest of Canada, the Chief Public Health Office concluded pesticides, when used according to Health Canada's directions, "do not pose a significant public health risk" in the province.

But the office also concluded there is "good evidence" to support a possible connection between exposure to some pesticides and a number of health conditions, including cancers of the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system.

Precautionary principle

Roger Gordon of the group Pesticide Free P.E.I. said he's largely in agreement with the first part of the research, which supported the links between pesticide exposure and certain health conditions.

I would have drawn the opposite conclusions.— Roger Gordon, Pesticide Free P.E.I.

But from that, he said, the authors drew the wrong conclusions.

"I don't think that the authors have the evidence to say that we should be carrying on with pesticide applications in the same way that we have been doing," he said. "I would have drawn the opposite conclusions."

Based on the report's findings, Gordon said the Chief Public Health Office should have used the so-called precautionary principle: balanced the benefits from pesticide use against the possible health effects, and provide recommendations "to reduce the application of pesticides and mitigate exposure to pesticides."

"I think that's something that should be done right away," he said.

P.E.I. got it right: industry

CropLife Canada, the group that represents pesticide manufacturers in Canada, said the province reached the right conclusion in its review.

In a statement to CBC News, the group said "as the report from the Chief Public Health Office in P.E.I. notes, pesticides used in the province do not pose a significant health risk when used according to label directions.

"Our industry encourages the responsible use of these tools, which deliver important benefits to farmers in terms of helping them produce a safe and abundant food supply."

About the Author

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca

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