Toronto Votes Against Pesticide Use

Globe and Mail Update
May 22, 2003

Toronto Votes Against Pesticide Use
By LUMA MUHTADIE

Representatives of the lawn-care industry stormed out of a Toronto city council meeting Thursday, after councillors voted 26-13 in favour of a by-law that restricts the use of pesticides and herbicides.

"It's been a long process with a lot of back and forth, but I think we've reached a fair balance that ensures people won't be using pesticides if they don't need to," Councillor Brad Duguid, a proponent of the by-law, told Globeandmail.com.

The use of pesticides will be permitted only to those homeowners who have a serious infestation problem. This will be determined by a committee comprised of environmentalists, lawn-care industry representatives and city employees.

The ban on pesticides will be phased in over three years, beginning with a public education campaign this year and next, advising people of pesticide-free alternatives to maintain lawns.

The city will begin issuing warnings for non-compliance in 2005 and by 2006 those receiving a second warning could receive a ticket for $250.

About 45 Canadian cities have already introduced some form of restriction on the use of pesticides for lawn care.

Halifax was the first major Canadian centre to ban pesticide use on lawns nearly three years ago.

Following a strident debate between landscapers, who said their products could be used safely, and environmentalists and doctors, who maintained the chemicals were causing an increasing number of people to fall ill, the Halifax Regional Council voted in favour of a ban on pesticides, to be phased in over four years.

Other smaller Canadian towns, such as Dundas, Ont., and Chelsea and Hudson, Que., have by-laws banning pesticide use on private property.

Chemlawn and SprayTech, two prominent lawn-care companies, mounted a legal challenge against the Hudson by-law but the Supreme Court upheld it, continuing the restrictions on weed and bug killers.

A growing number of municipalities including Ottawa, Waterloo, Ont., Toronto and Calgary have also severely reduced the amount of pesticide they use on public land.

When Toronto adopted an intensive program to reduce chemical spraying on city land, their pesticide use dropped drastically, Mr. Duguid said.

More than 30 Quebec municipalities have taken action to try to reduce the use of chemicals for beautifying lawns.

Quebec approved legislation banning pesticide use on provincial and municipally owned property, and the same rules are supposed to apply to homes by 2005. The provincial regulations exempt farms.

Several studies have linked pesticide exposure to increased risks of leukemia, brain tumours and asthma in children. Researchers have also been looking at more subtle effects of low-level exposure to pesticides, such as potential learning disabilities and behavioural disorders.

In the last federal Speech from the Throne, the Chrétien government pledged to reintroduce the Pest Control Products Act, which would set new rules to address the environmental and health risks of pesticides.

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