Ontario and Nova Scotia have some of the healthiest and safest lawns in Canada, according to a recent report from the David Suzuki Foundation. They have joined Quebec in banning many toxic pesticides for lawns and landscaping, and beat Quebec in the report because they also list safer options that present a lower risk to human health.
“Quebec was the first province to ban the sale and use of pesticides – that policy was phased in between 2003 and 2006,” Lisa Gue, Environmental Health Policy Analyst for the Foundation, told me. “Since 2008 we’ve seen four other provinces introduce pesticide bans.” BC has yet to join them. The BC Ministry of the Environment has hosted a public consultation asking for input on a potential ban on pesticides, and the Opposition has on 3 occasions introduced legislation to ban them. Around 36 municipalities in BC have pesticide bans in place. “Of course, some are stronger than others.” And “only the province can regulate the sale of these products”, so Lisa would tell BC to “get on with it!”
Pesticide bans work. In 2009, Statistics Canada’s annual households & the environment survey included pesticide use. “At that time, Quebec was the only province to have banned these pesticide products. After the ban came in, the self reported survey recorded that 4% of people were still using pesticides, whereas 25% of BC households [with no ban] with a lawn or garden reported using chemical pesticides. The ban does help make people switch to less toxic products.”
“Human health and the environment are intimately intertwined,” Lisa continued. Some pesticides are toxic due to their impact on groundwater, whereas others are suspected carcinogens. “But the reality is that once pesticides enter the environment, sooner or later we’re going to be exposed as well. […] We can’t separate ourselves from the environment – ultimately what we end up doing to the environment we end up doing to ourselves.”
One problem with pesticides is they are dumb. They kill both good and bad insects, so “a dependence on chemical pesticides can actually make your lawn more susceptible to weeds because you’re killing off the natural defenses,” Lisa explained.
There’s lots of good information available, so check out your city’s webpages and see what information they have about pesticides and “locally specific tips for chemical free gardens that match up to some of the pest problems that people in [your] area might experience,” Lisa concluded.