EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey
Over the millions of years of Nature’s evolution, every kind of insect and bacterium has evolved, seeking its niche in the world. There are more than a million insect species and, sometimes, a gardener may believe that they are all trying to eat her roses.
No problem, however. We are clever. We can reach for the pesticides!
Spray, spray, spray away,
gently with the breeze.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
spray away disease.
At first blush, the magic works. Your lawn is so immaculate you could invite the Queen to dine upon it. Isn’t it amazing what modern science can achieve? But then your dogs start dying. They don’t know you have sprayed your lawn and they romp and roll happily, finishing with a good licking to clean their paws.
Between 1975 and 1995, the incidence of bladder cancer in dogs examined at veterinary schools in North America increased six-fold, with Scottish terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, wirehaired fox terriers, and West Highland white terriers having a higher risk than mixed breeds. When the researchers interviewed the owners of Scottish terriers with bladder cancer, they found that dogs whose owners had used phenoxy acid herbicides on their lawns were four to seven times more likely to have cancer than dogs whose owners had not.
And then your children start getting cancer. A 1995 study by Jack Leiss and David Savitz published in the American Journal of Public Health found that children whose yards were treated with pesticides were four times more likely to have soft-tissue sarcomas. Another study, by R. Lowengart, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1987, found that the parents’ use of pesticides during pregnancy was linked to a three to nine-fold increase in childhood leukemia.
And then there are the golf courses, home to golfers who love the perfect green. When the ten-year-old Jean-Dominique Lévesque-René of Montreal was in hospital with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994, with a 50 percent chance of surviving, he did some homework. First, he discovered that half the area where had had grown up on the Île Bizard had golf courses that were routinely sprayed with pesticides. He then learned that the herbicide 2,4-D, linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had been sprayed on their lawn every summer since he was a toddler.
While in hospital, he met other children with cancer and he built up a map of Quebec, showing where they lived. Twenty-two came from Île Bizard, where the golf courses were located, and when he worked the numbers, he discovered that their rate of childhood cancer was 37 times higher than normal. Thank you, merry golfers! When he left hospital, he became a persistent activist for by-laws to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides.
And this is where you come in. Quebec, Newfoundland, PEI, New Brunswick and Ontario all have legislation banning the cosmetic use of pesticides and herbicides, and right now – but only until February 15 – BC is gathering public feedback on its own proposed legislation.
The Canadian Cancer Society, with a number of other organizations, is calling for legislation that will: 1) prohibit the use, sale and retail display of chemical pesticides for lawns, gardens and non-agricultural landscaping; 2) allow exemptions only to protect public health; 3) provide public education about the ban and alternatives to chemical pesticides; 4) include effective mechanisms for enforcement; 5) exclude the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which allows the use of pesticides as a last resort to deal with weeds and insects; 6) be passed in 2010 and fully implemented by 2012.
This is politics, however, and you can be sure that pestdicide companies are lobbying for legislation that is weak and woolly. Please, for the sake of our children, our pets and ourselves, go to www.advocate.ccsbcy.ca and send an email to reinforce the Canadian Cancer Society’s push; it has outlined its recommendations for a Cosmetics Pesticides Act on its website. Five minutes, that’s all it will take.
Guy Dauncey is the author or co-author of nine books, including Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic. He lives in Victoria. www.earthfuture.com