Avoid pesticides, Ontario doctors warn

Family doctors in Ontario review 12 years of studies on serious health effects linked to pesticides, recommend reducing exposure.

Family doctors strongly recommended Canadians reduce their exposure to pesticides based on a 12-year review showing consistent links between pesticides and serious illnesses.

The Ontario College of Family Physicians released their review Friday of a wide range of studies linking pesticide exposure to cancer, reproductive problems and neurological diseases.

Since many of the health problems linked with pesticide use are serious and difficult to treat, the authors recommend prevention and reducing exposure "whenever and wherever possible."

"Perhaps most striking is that work exposure among parents can result in increase risk of significant health problems including kidney cancer and brain cancer in their children," said Dr. Margaret Sanborn of Hamilton's McMaster University, one of the authors of the college's review.

"A few studies show that even pesticide exposures caused by home and garden use, likely to be considerably less intense or frequent than work exposure, is associated with problems including brain cancer, childhood leukemia and a neurodegenerative disease called Amyelotropic Lateral Sclerosis."

The college recommended reducing exposure by:

  • Researching and implementing alternative organic methods of lawn and garden care and indoor pest control.
  • Properly using personal protection equipment, including respirators for home and work exposures.
  • Educating people on safe handling, mixing, storage and application when pesticide use is considered necessary. 

The authors supported municipal bans on the use of pesticide for cosmetic purposes.

They also encouraged family doctors to screen patients for pesticide exposure.

The pesticide industry has said bans on lawn chemicals are an over-reaction, adding Health Canada's regulatory division registers all pest control products used in Canada.

On Monday, the trade association representing manufacturers of pesticides said the college's literature review alarms the public unnecessarily and Canada's pesticide regulators have already taken such studies into account.

CropLife Canada said no product can be used in Canada if it causes any unacceptable health risk including cancer.