CBC In Depth
The argument against pesticides
CBC News Online | May 23, 2003

The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development heard from many delegations during its hearings. It heard from many of the same groups that have debated the issues before city councils across the country.

Among the arguments against pesticides heard by the committee:
  • The Ontario College of Family Physicians, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada said pesticides affect neurological development, reproduction, growth, and the functioning of the immune and endocrine systems
  • A U.S. National Cancer Institute survey found that children with leukemia are six times more likely to come from homes where pesticides were used
  • Children are most at risk of developing problems because they play on lawns and pesticide residues can enter through their skin. Their smaller size and weaker immune systems make them especially vulnerable
A good deal of this information has surfaced in recent years. But most of it had not been incorporated into the Pest Control Products Act, which regulates pesticides in this country. That's because the act had not been revised since it was passed by Parliament in 1969; it had only been amended from time to time. McLellan's announcement of March 21, 2002, would result in a major revision.

"That means that many chemicals available today entered the market before stricter guidelines were brought in," the report's authors say. "And many other chemicals haven't even been reviewed since 1969." Canada's 30-year-old pesticide management system "is no longer acceptable," the report's authors conclude.

The committee urged the federal government to immediately:
  • stop approval of new products designed for cosmetic uses
  • re-evaluate all pesticides approved before 1995 based on today's stricter standards
  • phase out all pesticides for which safer alternatives exist
  • fund more research on the impact of pesticides on our health and our environment
  • modernize legislation already in place
  • allow consumers better access to information on pesticides so they can make informed decisions.

In the end, McLellan pledged to review chemicals and set up a registry of chemicals so Canadians could be better informed about the risks of common lawn chemicals.

Politicians across the country have heard lots of worrying information about pesticides, but there's still no hard proof linking them to ill effects, when used as approved.

A very common phenoxy herbicide, 2,4-D, found in products like Killex and many weed 'n feed mixtures is suspected of stimulating cancer development, delaying fetal development, and promoting mutations. Unfortunately, very little is known about the long-term effects of phenoxy herbicides on mammals. More research is desperately needed, the report concludes.

Organophosphates in common insecticides such as Diazinon, Malathion and Dursban kill by interfering with the nervous system. They inhibit the enzymes needed for proper functioning of the central nervous system, causing dizziness and sometimes convulsions that may lead to death. A number of chronic effects of carbamate exposure have also been reported, including lowered sperm counts, reduced fertility and lower haemoglobin.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Association recently announced a ban on Dursban, citing its potential health risks to children. Canada says it likes the approach the Americans are taking and will follow suit


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Bed bug control, Pest Management Regulatory Agency

Bed bugs, BC Health Files

Bed bugs, City of Toronto

Bed bug biology and management, Harvard School of Public Health

Bed bugs, Mayo Clinic
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