Calgary

Alberta bans weed and feed lawn products

Albertans who covet weed-free lawns will have one less product at their disposal beginning Jan. 1, 2010 as the province announced it's banning herbicide-fertilizer combination products.

Albertans who covet weed-free lawns will have one less product at their disposal beginning Jan. 1, 2010 as the province announced it's banning herbicide-fertilizer combination products.

Known most commonly as weed and feed, the products contain a chemical called 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) that is "highly mobile" when it runs off lawns into storm drainage systems and subsequently drains  into creeks and rivers, said the province Thursday.

The ban on the sale of the combination products is designed to protect the quality of water downstream of urban areas, said Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner in a news release.

According to the province, the average amount of 2,4-D in surface water downstream of Alberta municipalities is currently below the recommended federal threshold, but the 2010 ban is a proactive move.

"By eliminating products that encourage mass application we will reduce the amount of chemical run-off in our waterways," he said, adding that more than 10 times the required amount of pesticide can be applied to lawns when weed and feed is used.

Thursday's decision will not impact the agricultural or landscaping industries because weed and feed products are used mainly by homeowners on their lawns, Renner added.

However, herbicide-fertilizer intended for spot application to weeds will still be available for sale.

Penalties yet to be worked out

Paris Engram, a spokeswoman for Alberta Environment, said the government is announcing the ban in advance to allow retailers time to adjust to the new rules.

"We want to alert retailers when they order their supplies for the upcoming year so that they only order sufficient quantities for the 2009 spring-summer growing season and they're not ordering a surplus of chemical expecting to be able to sell it in 2010 when they can't."

Penalties for breaking the new rules have yet to be worked out, she added.

Some environmentalists have said 2,4-D is linked to cancer. In May, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which regulates pesticide use, re-evaluated the use of the chemical and concluded that it is safe as long as users follow instructions on the label.

More than 140 municipalities in Canada have bylaws restricting the use of pesticides, but they do not have the power to enact laws on the sale of the chemicals.

Quebec is the only province that prohibits the sale of certain pesticides.