Ontario to mark Earth Day with cosmetic pesticide ban

What some are calling the toughest cosmetic pesticide ban in North America comes into effect this week in Ontario.

What some are calling the toughest cosmetic pesticide ban in North America comes into effect this week in Ontario.

Beginning on Earth Day Wednesday, the province is banning the sale and use of about 250 pesticides and ingredients, including 2,4-D and malathion.

Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen says the ban means getting toxic materials off lawns.

"It's tough but workable, and it sends a strong signal to industry about the types of innovative low-risk products we want on Ontario's store shelves," Gerretsen said when introducing the legislation last November. 

Sandy Maroney, who was at a garden centre in Etobicoke on Monday, supports the ban.

She said she's worried about what pesticides do to children when they play on a lawn.

"It's not safe if they put things in their mouth that's on the grass," she said.  

The ban is stronger than municipal bans like Toronto's because it covers the sale, not just the use of cosmetic pesticides, and there are almost no exemptions.

But the pesticide industry is fighting the provincial legislation because it bans the use of chemicals that have been approved by Health Canada.

Off the shelves

Gerretsen said an acceptable risk is still a risk. 

"There's been very little study done over the years as to the cumulative effect of all these materials," he said Monday at Queen's Park.

Many of the large retailers such as Canadian Tire and Home Depot have already taken the products off the shelves.

There's one exemption to the ban, though.

People will still be able to buy Roundup to kill poison ivy.

Rick Smith, from the group Environment Defence, doesn't think that's a significant loophole.

"I just think you'd have to be pretty darn committed to using pesticides to lie about having poison ivy in your front yard in order to access it," he said.

Even with the exemption, Smith said Ontario will have the strongest pesticide ban in North America.

Meanwhile, a New Democrat MP introduced a private member's bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday that would impose a national ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides on lawns, gardens and in parks.

Pat Martin, a member from Winnipeg, says his bill would ban the use of pesticides until there is scientific evidence they are safe.

The bill would take effect on Earth Day, April 22, next year if it's approved by the Commons.

Private member's bills are rarely passed, however.

With files from The Canadian Press