Members of the Pesticide Free Cranbrook Coalition appeared at Monday night’s City Council meeting and gave a presentation on the benefits of banning cosmetic pesticides.
The presentation had two parts, first Dr. Stefanie Falz, family physician, gave Council information on the research that has been done regarding the link between pesticide exposure and illness, and second Patti Moore, community coordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and Dana Sykut, from Pesticide Free Cranbrook Coalition and a CCS volunteer, went through the society’s position, alternatives to pesticides and pesticide restricting bylaws.
“It was a very good presentation, very comprehensive. I think the ladies have a lot of commitment and passion,” said Scott Manjak, Cranbrook Mayor. “There is a movement within B.C. and Canada to undertake these types of bylaws.”
The CCS is calling on municipal governments to implement bylaws to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides on public and private lands.
“I support this,” said Coun. Angus Davis. “I think it would be a good thing to get rid of some of the chemicals in our lives.”
Falz compared restricting pesticides to smoking bans, saying tobacco, like pesticides, is a widely used substance with increasing evidence to suggest it causes certain cancers, and that one person’s use of it impacts innocent bystanders, including pregnant women and children.
“Pesticides do not stop at the fence line,” she said.
Falz went through a number of different studies that showed links between pesticide exposure and cancer. For example, a study of Kansas farm workers in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1986 showed a six-fold increase in Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and an eight-fold increase if the workers mixed the chemicals themselves.
According to the presentation there are 150 Canadian municipalities, including 20 in B.C., that have adopted and/or implemented pesticide bylaws.
Moore used Invermere as an example, having adopted a cosmetic pesticide bylaw in February of this year. She said there was a large education campaign leading up to adoption of the bylaw, including a healthy lawn and garden fair, a pesticides forum, community displays and mail outs.
“Our observation is that Cranbrook is the biggest community in the Kootenays and I think what we have to do is take a very measured approach to going down this road, to understand what it is we’re trying to achieve and what the objectives are,” Manjak said. “The City Council, through our own research by staff, will try to understand what the pros and cons are. I think it’s a fairly general statement to say that this is something that may be needed in our community and I think we can take it from a very preliminary step and follow the process through.”
Sykut said a good pesticide bylaw includes all “cides” (herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides and fungicides), all private and public lands, has no infestation clause, has no exceptions but public health, permitted less-toxic pesticides are specified, and it is best paired with an educational campaign.
The pesticide bylaw does not apply to swimming pools, purification of water, forestry or agriculture, noxious weed control, inside an enclosed building, or to control or destroy animals or plants that constitute a danger for humans,
A pesticide bylaw in Cranbrook would be enforced on a complaint basis. According to a 2008 Ipsos Reid poll, in the East Kootenay 73 per cent of citizens support their local or provincial government passing bylaws or legislation to phase out the cosmetic use of pesticides.
Moore also addressed the question of economic impact a pesticide bylaw might have. She said bylaws do not harm business, and the number and variety of alternative lawn and garden products is actually growing in places that have adopted bylaws. The presentation also noted many businesses are voluntarily shifting away from synthetic pesticides, and the economic impact argument should not deter from the importance of safeguarding health.
Manjak asked the delegation to give their presentation to the City Environment and Utilities Committee and recommended they also present to the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce. He noted the bylaw is not something that will happen quickly.
“The timeline can be anywhere from eight months to 16 months. I think given the size of our community we will take it in incremental process, make sure we understand the issue, and what the effects of an eventual bylaw may be to this community,” he said. “You heard support for the concept around the table and that is encouraging for them and it’s a good step forward.”