A PESTICIDE LAW FOR OTTAWA IN 2007 By Jean Cottam (Article)

Jean Cottam


Ottawa is lagging behind 127 Canadian municipalities that have adopted a pesticide bylaw for cosmetic purposes. Now that we have elected a  new City Council, the upcoming new campaign for Ottawa's pesticide bylaw will be spearheaded by both the Canadian Cancer Society and well-informed medical specialists.

We should be aware of the hard facts about pesticides. Many people think that pesticides wear off without exposing people and pets. However, grandparents please note that U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found multiple pesticide residues, including those from the common herbicide 2,4-D (Weed & Feed products), in the bodies of children aged 6-11. These residues were detected at significantly higher levels than in all other age categories.

Pesticides may persist on turf and in the soil for months, not days, after an application. As well, pesticides get tracked indoors and persist in carpets and in household dust, and a child's exposure to 2,4-D in dust may be much greater than exposure in food.

Use of pesticides is especially problematic in condominiums. To hold a special meeting on pesticides, a proportion of owners (15%) have to sign a petition requesting such a special meeting. My advice to condominium owners is to have an internal discussion at such meetings exclusively, without imported speakers, as for every outside speaker in favour of urban pesticide bans their Board is bound to bring in a spokesman for the chemical lawn application industry.

The owners will be told by such industry lobbyists that pesticides are perfectly safe, because they have been approved by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency [otherwise known as Pesticide Manufacturers' Rubber-stamping Agency!], that pesticides are like Windex and that they are safer than salt or aspirin--in short, they will be told outrageous nonsense that will sway some simple-minded people.

Many seniors who have been accustomed to lawn pesticide use do not realize that herbicides (a type of pesticide) have been invented only during WWII and pre-war lawns were maintained in an excellent condition without the use of these highly toxic poisons.

When switching from chemical to organic lawn maintenance the following methods are recommended:

1)Grass should be cut to a height of NOT LESS than 2 1/2 - 3 inches. This is critical to success.

2)Clippings should be left behind on turf as they provide a portion of the necessary nitrogen. (They cannot be left behind when the turf is sprayed with pesticides--includes herbicides and insecticides). The overall aim is to rehabilitate both grass and soil, where beneficial soil organisms have been destroyed by repeated application of toxic herbicides usually in the form of PAR III or Weed & Feed.

3)Turf should be overseeded in the spring to prevent weeds growing in grassless spaces. Also, top-dressing (soil) should be applied to turf periodically, as required.

4)Chemical fertilizers should be replaced by organic ones, such as compost, obtainable from the Trail Road facility. Of course, Weed & Feed MUST NOT BE USED under any circumstances. (The Weed portion is the toxic herbicide 2,4-D not intended to be sprayed over the entire lawn; the Feed portion is a fertilizer intended to be applied over the entire lawn.)

5)A sprinkling of Dutch clover here and there is beneficial, as Dutch clover adds nitrogen. Also with Dutch clover the turf needs less watering. Dutch clover used to be included in commercial grass seed and was discontinued when "pure" grass became fashionable, but such grass is more vulnerable and requires more intensive maintenance.


Herbicides are synthetic chemicals. A number of chemicals are put into a special furnace, called reactor, and are synthesized at high temperatures. The results are not always exactly the same, as the final product may be more or less contaminated by toxic substances called dioxin.

Unwanted by-products of incineration and manufacturing, dioxins are passed to the next generation and are associated with cancer, neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, and immune disfunction that can lead to arthritis and diabetes. Children are especially vulnerable–-to birth defects, impaired development, asthma and cancer.

2-4-D is the most commonly used lawn herbicide in North America. Agent Orange of Vietnam and Gagetown fame consisted of herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, both belonging to the the group of phenoxy herbicides. Due to the horrendous results of a human U.S. government study, conducted in the seventies, the herbicide 2,4,5-T, contaminated during manufacturing with powerful dioxin 2,3,7,8-TCDD, was banned in mid-eighties.

However, another form of dioxin, 2,7-DCDD, an inevitable by-product of 2,4-D manufacturing, was found to be "equipotent" to dioxin TCDD in its toxic effect on the immunity of mice. TCDD got all the publicity and DCDD was forgotten. To this day DCDD is not regulated or monitored by our Government, but could be at much higher levels than TCDD. The chemical industry indeed sacrificed 2,4,5-T to keep producing other phenoxy herbicides as cheaply as possible.

Examines secret rat data selected by the industry, obtained from toxicological tests in special labs financed by the industry. Epidemiology (human studies) are not taken into account. The PMRA does not employ medical doctors. This Agency’s spokesperson confirmed that no data are collected on 2,4-D dioxin, except for some measurements made for dioxin 2,3,7,8-TCDD, because "there are too many dioxins!"

Thus the 2,4-D manufacturing process is not monitored for the concentrations of dioxin DCDD, in some ways as powerful as dioxin TCDD, as there are no monitoring or regulatory requirements to limit the concentrations of this toxic product. Herbicide 2,4-D is applied in the controversial Weed & Feed products and PAR III mixtures.

PAR III consists of 2,4-D, mecoprop and dicamba. Only so-called “active” elements of these chemicals are individually tested. Secret untested “formulants”  may amount to 50% or more of each product. Some formulants are linked to cancer according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Combined and cumulative effects of human exposures to these chemicals are not measured, yet chemicals behave synergistically; they reinforce each other. PMRA spokesmen have admitted that 2,4-D, the main PAR III component, was re-registered by this Agency without taking into account the special vulnerability of children. (No developmental neurological data were received by the PMRA, yet in this connection children may be as much as one hundred times as vulnerable as adults are to pesticide exposures.) Significantly, 2,4-D lawn use is banned in Quebec, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. (In Canada, the racemic mecoprop can be used up until the end of 2009, even though industry supplied no data on this product, to be replaced by the improved mecoprop-p.)

When applied, PAR III breaks down gradually until it becomes water and carbon dioxide. The first 2,4-D breakdown product is the highly toxic 2,4-dichlorophenol (2,4-DCP), to which rats are only minimally exposed, because their cages are cleaned regularly. However, 2,4-DCP is involuntarily tested on our children and pets, even when they happen to be at a distance from a recently sprayed lawn. Inhalation exposures are especially undesirable, as residues go directly to the brain, by-passing the liver, the cleansing organ.

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