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COSMETIC USE OF PESTICIDES
 

With increasing research implicating the use of pesticides and herbicides in a variety of human (and veterinary) diseases, many communities throughout Canada are passing by-laws restricting their use and educating citizens regarding the potential hazards of these chemicals.

Presently, there are 72 municipalities in Canada that have implemented by-laws restrictions or have banned outright the cosmetic use of pesticides. These include West Vancouver, Port Moody and Gibsons in BC, and Toronto, Halifax, Montreal, and all of the province of Quebec. Also, Vancouver, North Vancouver, Cumberland and New Westminster all have by-laws drafted but not yet fully in force.

Environment Canada Definition:
A pesticide is a substance intended to repel, kill, or control any species designated a "pest", including weeds, insects, rodents, fungi, bacteria, or other organisms. The family of pesticides includes herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, and bactericides.
A pest is defined as an insect, rodent, nematode, fungus, weed or other form of terrestrial or aquatic plant or animal life that is injurious to health or the environment.

Environmental Protection Agency (USA) Definition:
A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, unwanted plants (weeds), fungi, or micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.

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By their very nature, most pesticides create some risk of harm to humans, animals, or the environment because they are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms, often by damaging their nervous systems.

Pesticides can accumulate in the food chain and/or contaminate the environment if misused. Many common household products are pesticides, such as:
· Cockroach sprays and baits
· Insect repellents for personal use
· Rat and other rodent poisons
· Flea and tick sprays, powders, and pet collars
· Kitchen, laundry, and bath disinfectants and sanitizers
· Products that kill mould and mildew
· Some lawn and garden products, such as weed killers
· Some swimming pool chemicals

Pests can develop resistance to chemical pesticides while their natural predators get wiped out. It is questionable whether pesticide application reduces the incidence of human disease because the insects build up resistance to pesticides and then rebound.

Certain herbicides have been shown to be directly toxic to birds (eg. 2,4-D). Agent Orange is an herbicide. Herbicides have been proven to cause cancer, birth defects, endocrine disruption, other chronic effects. Sixty percent of the total pesticide use in the U.S. is used to kill "pest" weeds – more than is used to grow food. Herbicide applications pollute our waterways, marshes, valuable drinking water resources, and the air we breathe.

Biologically-based pesticides, such as pheromones and microbial pesticides, are becoming increasingly popular and often are safer than traditional chemical pesticides.

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The following information is collected from a variety of sources, listed below.

HIDDEN CHEMICALS & OUR HEALTH

We live with the dangerous illusion that chemical ingredients in our everyday consumer products have been tested for health effects, by Health Canada or by the U.S. EPA.

The claim is that pesticides are relatively low-risk, and people think these pesticides are harmless when actually they kill many insects and animals, and can seriously affect humans because they decrease the enzyme that is essential for normal nervous system functioning.

Common pesticides used in homes and lawns are now being shown in medical research to accelerate aging of the immune and nervous system, resulting in serious health problems years after exposure. Research has linked varying degrees of human exposure to chemical pesticides with an increase in miscarriage, birth defects, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, and some types of cancer. Pesticide exposure may play a role in the development of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), multiple sclerosis (MS), and multiple chemical sensitivity as well.

Children are at an added risk because they are lower to the ground, tend to put things in their mouth, their body mass is smaller than adults, and they are still developing.

Studies have found higher rates of cancer in children and dogs living in households that use pesticides in the home and garden.

A human DNA molecule contains over 30,000 genes. Over 4,000 genes remain active at this moment, controlling all aspects of health from the brain to the immune system. When these genes are weakened or damaged by chemical exposures, health problems surface.

Over 20% of pesticides currently registered in the U.S. are linked to cancer, birth defects, developmental harm or nerve damage. Over half of the food on our grocery shelves contains genetically engineered ingredients that have not been adequately tested for impacts on human health.

These chemicals tend to accumulate in fatty tissue, and one recent study found that they have shown up in the breast milk of women who live in the Arctic. These chemicals also appear in virtually all food products in a typical American diet.

Since pesticides cause primarily CNS (central nervous system: the brain and spinal cord) and other neurological symptoms, it is not surprising that pesticides are one of the main causes or contributors to the emergence of chemical sensitivity. They are the perpetrators of the perfect crime, as they are ubiquitous and generally odourless. They can cause insidious or delayed, yet progressive symptoms even weeks after an exposure, once the threshold for an individual’s tolerance is finally exceeded (Gershon 1961). If the pesticides’ innate toxicity (having been specifically designed as metabolic interrupters and neurotoxins, initially for chemical warfare) were not enough, many of the secondary metabolites (breakdown products) are even more toxic than the parent compounds.

Most pesticides are mixtures of active and ‘inert’ ingredients, and some compounds used as inert ingredients are recognized as endocrine disrupters. The pesticide labelling law unfortunately does not require manufacturers to list inert ingredients, and ‘trade secrets’ allow them to avoid disclosure to customers, so you cannot tell by reading a product label whether a pesticide contains an endocrine-disrupting ingredient.

People exposed to chemicals, such as fertilizers and pesticides, were found to suffer twice the risk of what’s known as Lou Gehrig’s disease than those who never encounter these chemicals (American Journal of Epidemiology). This disease is called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a condition that destroys the nerves that control muscles – there is no known cure.

Investigators found disturbing facts from two studies of indoor air contaminants conducted during the late 1980s in Jacksonville FL and Springfield MA. In those places, indoor air contained at least five (but typically 10 or more) times higher concentrations of pesticides than outside air – and those residues included insecticides approved only for outdoor use. Such poisons can be tracked in on people’s shoes, or may seep through the soil as a gas into homes. In addition, people sometimes apply inappropriate pesticides directly to indoor surfaces, unaware that they are causing their own high exposures. And even the most enlightened homeowners are often unaware of past applications of dangerous chemicals. Pesticides that break down within days outdoors may last for years in carpets, where they are protected from degradation caused by sunlight and bacteria.

THE POLITICS OF ‘SAFE’

The chemical pesticide industry is part of a larger, multi-billion dollar global pharmaceutical industry with massive vested interests in the continued use of pesticide products, and virtually unlimited funds to silence potential critics and to influence public opinion and government officials.

In Canada, chemical companies submit their own research, along with a fee, for evaluation by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada. Safety regulations for pesticide application, such as permits, posting, notification, transportation and disposal, varies between provinces.

In the U.S., chemical companies do their own testing and submit the results to the EPA for review. Agricultural and consumer use pesticides are not currently required to be tested for subtle neurological effects (e.g. memory, depression, behaviour) – child learning disorders – pregnancy developmental studies and immune system effects (e.g. lower white blood counts – increased infection rates and autoimmunity).

Many North Americans ingest carcinogens in their drinking water. Every growing season, a portion of the millions of pounds of pesticides applied to crops wash off into waterways or seep deep into soil and end up in drinking water. A 1990 Environmental Protection Agency survey found that 10.4% of community water system wells and 4.2% of rural domestic wells contain one or more pesticides. Pesticides are generally not removed by the standard water treatment technologies used by most water companies.

The burden of proof should be shifted to the chemical manufacturers; the current system assumes that chemicals are innocent until proven guilty. This is ethically wrong - the burden of proof should work the other way. This presumption of innocence has time and again made people sick and damaged ecosystems.

CHEMICALS ARE BIG BUSINESS

The worldwide pesticide market continues to grow at a staggering rate. It's estimated that global sales of pesticides have increased to $31.25 billion (U.S.) in 1996 from $2.7 billion in 1970. On a per acre comparison, the use of pesticides in urban areas is many times greater than in agricultural areas. This dramatic increase is due in part to a spiralling chemical dependency that began as a business opportunity.

The so-called 'perfect lawn' is a fabrication of the industry that aims to provide it. Pesticide companies have seen a marketing opportunity and seized it. There is nothing either sinister or illegal about their actions. But once a cycle of chemical dependency has been established, our lawns require an increasing quantity of chemicals just to survive. In the process, we are also destroying our lawn's natural ability to protect it self against so-called pests. The more chemicals we use, the more resistant the pests become. The World Watch Institute reports that in 1938, just 7 known insects and mite species were resistant to pesticides. By 1984, there were 447 resistant species, including many major agricultural pests.

In California, the leading agricultural state in the U.S., and a major food exporter to Canada, use of cancer-causing pesticides increased 121% between 1991 and 1999. We face a powerful, politically influential pesticide industry with a single goal – to expand its multi-billion-dollar business. For example, in 2000, Monsanto sold more than $2.6 billion worth of Roundup around the world. The entire planet is being used as the corporations’ laboratory.

OUR GREEN LAWN OBSESSION

The casual use of pesticides around homes and gardens for frivolous, cosmetic purposes is risky and irresponsible. In the U.S. and Canada, greater quantities of pesticides are applied per acre in the suburbs than on agricultural land, much of it to support the modern obsession with green, ‘weed’-free lawns. Golf course managers are reported to use four times more pesticide per acre than farmers do on food crops.

American lawn care services sometimes tell their customers that the pesticides used are “EPA approved.” The Environmental Protection Agency has never screened most of the pesticides now on the market for hormone-disrupting activity, and the U.S. EPA registration is no measure of safety. In fact, chemical agencies register with the EPA precisely because a product is potentially harmful, and labelling reduces the legal liability of the manufacturer in lawsuits brought on by people who have been harmed by using the pesticide.

For ‘do-it-yourselfer’ householders, it is possible to go organic with a little work and some basic information. [See the Alternative Links]

Make your own lawn pesticide-free and encourage your neighbours to do so. If they persist in their use of pesticides, insist that they post signs on their lawns at the time of treatment to inform the neighbourhood and to keep children and pets away.

Dandelions don't cause cancer! Pesticides should only be used in genuine emergencies.

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SOURCES:

Self-Healing Newsletter, Andrew Weil, M.D., July 2001.
www.chem-tox.com with material compiled by Wayne Sinclair, M.D., Allergy, Asthma & Immunology – 2002.
Know your enemy before fighting back with pesticides, Marlene Condon, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, VA, April 24, 2001.
Pesticide Action Network – PANNA, 2002.
Screening for Nervous System Damage From Chemical Exposure, Cindy Duehring, Environmental Access Research Network.
Stolen Future, Colborn, Dumanoski and Myers, 1997.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, What It Is, What It Is Not, And How It Is Manifested, presented at the concurrent session of the 1995 conference of the Association on Higher Education and Disability. Presented by Neuropsychologist Sheila Bastien, Ph.D. Cancer and the Environment, psrus.org – Physicians for Social Responsibility, April 2002.
www.sciam.com – 1998.
Lou Gehrig’s Disease Linked to Pesticides and Fertilizer, Nutrition News, Energy Times, September 1997.
www.worldwise.com/weeds.html – Herbicides, 2005, Debra Lynn Dadd.



READ ALL ABOUT IT

Combining Pesticides with Fertilizers is Unnecessary and Harmful – BC Medical Association

Citizen Action Against Pesticide Use in the West Kootenay – Kootenay Cuts

Pesticide Reduction – Sierra Club of Canada

Pesticide-Free Naturally Campaign – Green Communities Association

Lawn Care: Pesticide Hazards and Alternatives – Beyond Pesticides

Cosmetic Pesticides – The Canadian Lung Association

Campaign to Ban Pesticides Grows in Canada – Safe2Use, U.S.

Info Regarding U.S. EPA and Department of Pesticide Regulation – Safe2Use, U.S.



ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS

Pesticides – Wild About Gardening

Natural Lawn Care Step-by-Step – City Farmer

Pesticide Alternatives – CBC News


 
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