ONTARIO'S COSMETIC PESTICIDES BAN ACT - AN UPDATE - By K. Jean Cottam
BILL 64: ONTARIO'S COSMETIC PESTICIDES BAN ACT
by K. Jean Cottam
Before the 2008 spring session of the provincial parliament was
prorogued for the summer, Ontario MPPs passed Bill 64 intended to update
the regulations pertaining to cosmetic use of pesticides throughout
Ontario. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment had provided a
questionnaire on its website welcoming comment on the matter by the
We are told that the Ministry received 6,940 submissions "in response to
the January 18th Environmental Registry posting that outlined the
government's intent to introduce legislation that would ban the
cosmetic use of pesticides." About 90 per cent of comments reviewed
were supportive. (Wed 18 Jun 2008, "New Law Bans Cosmetic Pesticides:
McGuinty Government To Consult On List Of Banned Products And
Ingredients," Canada News-Wire, TORONTO, June 18 /CNW/ - NEWS.)
Apparently, the vast majority of Ontarians were in favour of Bill 64 in
principle, the details of which, including a list of lawn chemicals to
be banned, were to be worked out during the summer. However, it was very
disturbing that virtually all beneficial and sensible amendments
proposed by the NDP Opposition were defeated.
Predictably, the chemical lawn application industry fought the new
legislation tooth and nail, in an attempt to render it harmless. Yet
when the passing of Bill 64 was first made public, the Premier assured
Ontarians that Ontario's good municipal bylaws will remain intact.
Unfortunately, he was eventually "corrected" by Environment Minister
John Gerretsen that this was not the case.
It would seem that the hard work which led to the success in a number of
Ontario's municipalities, such as Toronto, Peterborough and London,
among others, will now be in vain, and we understand that Toronto may
consider a legal challenge to Bill 64 which has the potential to
emasculate all superior Ontario's municipal by-laws.
As reported in the press, based on consultations with the general public
and the stakeholders, the Ontario government was to determine the
following during the summer:
- The products to be banned from sale
- The ingredients to be banned from use
- The rules around exceptions for agriculture, forestry and golf
courses, with conditions.
The province was also to develop rules for other exemptions, including
remedies required to fight the West Nile virus, for example, and other
health or safety issues.
We were told that the ban was intended to replace all existing municipal
pesticide by-laws, "bringing consistency across the province and
protecting Ontarians regardless of where they live. The provincial law,
unlike municipal by-laws, bans the sale of cosmetic pesticides, not just
their use. It also sets out the rules for the transportation, storage
and disposal of pesticides, requirements that municipal by-laws cannot
The ban, which passed by 56 votes to 17, is scheduled to take effect in
the spring of 2009.
But the new law is under attack from municipalities, because--as already
stated--its intent is to supersede superior existing urban by-laws and
may allow the use of chemicals currently banned by large municipalities,
such as the City of Toronto.
As well, the Bill does not prohibit golf courses, farms or managed
forests from spraying pesticides. Forest spraying is a very contentious
issue in Ontario's north. However, golf courses are instructed to reduce
their pesticide use.
Environment Minister John Gerretsen justifies the limitations of the
bill in terms of its intent "to ensure consistency of law and give all
Ontarians equal protection from the potential exposure to cosmetic
pesticides, no matter where they live in the province."
It is noteworthy, however, that the pesticide ban in Quebec does not
prevent municipalities from maintaining the full scope of their
pesticide by-laws, provided they are not inferior to the province-wide
In addition, to the above-stated Bill-64 limitations, there was
justified apprehension (see below) that certain pesticides, such as
Roundup, banned by Ontario municipalities, will be exempted from the
province-wide legislation. For example, Markham Councillor Erin Shapero,
whose municipality was among the first to ban pesticides in Ontario, was
concerned that the new provincial law would "water down" the tougher
Gideon Forman, of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the
Environment, agreed, saying municipalities should be "allowed to go
further" in the interest of public health.
In a twelve-page report dated August 28, 2008 and titled "Debugging the
Ban: Nine Pesticides Missing from Ontario's Proposed Prohibitions," the
David Suzuki Foundation explains why the list of pesticides to be banned
by the Province is inadequate.
These omitted pesticides (includes herbicides, insecticides and
fungicides) are: Abamectin, Acetamiprid, Glufosinate Ammonium,
Glyphosate Acid, Isopropylamine Salt of Glyphosate, Metam, Napropamide,
Spinosad and Thiram. (Glyphosate products are also known as Roundup.)
While the Ontario NDP was supportive of the legislation but felt that it
did not go far enough and amounted to a betrayal of public trust on this
issue, John Tory denounced it "as an example of government's obsession
with more esoteric issues".
Mr. Tory, the unseated leader of the Conservative opposition, appears to
be completely in the industry's corner on this issue, calling the
legislation motivated by 'political science', rather than real science.
Unfortunately, 'real science' is the kind of science which promotes the
self-interest of the chemical industry, whose spokesmen and sympathizers
refer to the impeccable data of independent science as 'junk science'--a
distasteful terminology now used in reference to the issue of cosmetic
pesticides and formerly applied to smoking.
Both opposing politicians and self-interested industry spokesmen are
great champions of Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency
(PMRA), whose recent approval of common yet controversial herbicide
2,4-D is questioned by prominent independent scientists as premature.
Among them is Ottawa biochemist Dr. Meg Sears. (The PMRA employs only
one epidemiologist and over 300 toxicologists.)
Dr. Sears' contribution on the matter was published in The Ottawa
Citizen on July 14, 2008.
She says, "In 2006, I was among researchers and physicians who concluded
in Paediatrics and Child Health that '2,4-D can be persuasively linked
to cancers, neurological impairment and reproductive problems.'
Subsequent peer-reviewed research strengthens this conclusion. The PMRA
decision is premature. Manufacturers have yet to provide important studies.
"Scientific reports of birth defects and neurological harms have not yet
[been] factored [made to work as factors] in the PMRA decision...
Contaminant analyses are also pending. According to Environment Canada,
herbicides like 2,4-D are the largest source of 2,7-DCDD (the
unregulated dioxin that comes with 2,4-D) in our environment. PMRA staff
say that vastly more 2,7-DCDD than regulated dioxins is in 2,4-D.
Importantly, given its high levels, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances
and Disease Registry found that 2,7-DCDD is 'equipotent' to the most
toxic, regulated dioxin, in tests of immune suppression.
"Immune disruption contributes to many chronic illnesses, including
cancers. The PMRA quietly let slide the 2005 Advisory Panel
recommendation to investigate further child cancer. The immune system
cancer non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (nHL) is strongly linked to 2,4-D. The
PMRA dismissed these scientific studies, and even misinterpreted one as
saying 2,4-D lowered the chance of developing a particular nHL. In fact,
compared to farmers non-using pesticides, applicators of 2,4-D were
three times as likely to develop the cancer.
"The National Cancer Institute of Canada says that North America is a
world leader in nHL. The 2,4-D linked nHL is increasing most rapidly,
and is the most intractable to treat.
"When pesticides are used in neighbourhoods, children's largest exposure
may be from dust. By-laws and provincial legislation for least-toxic
pest control, to eliminate this exposure, are wise public policy."
Commendably, an overwhelming majority of Ottawa's City Council members,
with the exception of some rural councillors, voted in support of the
provincial Bill 64.
The provincial government is reassuring Ontarians that Bill 64 will be
applied this spring (2009) as scheduled. The government has added some
pesticides to the lists of banned products, as requested, which can be
viewed on the provincial Environment Ministry's website. The deadline
for public input was December 22, 2008.
This legislation became law on April 22, 2009, the Earth Day. On that day both sales and application of hundreds of chemicals used for cosmetic purposes in Ontario were banned. The exemptions included use of pesticides in agriculture, control of noxious weeds, use of insecticides in forestry and maintenance of golf courses, the latter required to produce annual evidence of pesticide reductions. A detailed description of the banned chemicals divided into various categories may be found on the Ontario Environment Ministry's website: www.ene.gov.on.ca/en/land/pesticides/factsheet-pesticides.php
New, safer lawn care products are being developed. Corn gluten meal
(CGM) is a pre-emergent herbicide (kills seeds in general) and
fertilizer combined. It should be applied in the spring, before weeds
appear. The overseeding of turf treated with CGM should take place at
least six weeks after the application of this biological herbicide. CGM
may also be applied in the summer and fall. Sarritor, a more recently
developed biological herbicide directed against broadleaf weeds, is a
granual application which is built into a program with seasonal
Tags: Jean Cottam