You may have heard that the province is in the process of consulting British Columbians about how cosmetic pesticides should be regulated. “Cosmetic” – as in, “used primarily to look good.” The classic example includes using chemicals to maintain the perfect lawn.
Although a ban on the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes seems to be one of the options being considered, the province is also considering new rules that would restrict when cosmetic pesticides can be used, and by whom, but without banning them outright.
Yesterday, a coalition of 18 environmental and health groups, including West Coast, called on the government to enact an outright ban on cosmetic pesticide use in the province. Quebec and Ontario have bans in place, and it’s time that BC join them. If you want to send the province a quick message asking for the ban, visit the Canadian Cancer Society website.
West Coast’s has also made formal, detailed submissions to the province responding to its Consultation Paper. We explain how a cosmetic pesticide ban will help the province achieve its stated objectives for regulating pesticides:
- Protecting human health, including the right of the public to control what enters their bodies;
- Adopting a precautionary, science-based approach aimed at avoiding unnecessary risk and uncertainty;
- Supporting the shifts in culture and the reduction in unnecessary pesticide use contemplated by integrated pest management; and
- Being simple and efficient to implement and enforce.
However, our submissions also make the point that it is not just cosmetic pesticide use that threaten public health. While the province is now reviewing residential use of cosmetic pesticides, the discussion paper does not examine residential use of non-cosmetic pesticides. But it only makes sense to focus on cosmetic pesticides if we’re talking about a pesticide ban. If we’re just talking about new rules to protect the public from residential pesticide use, those rules could just as easily apply to all residential use.
Non-cosmetic pesticides are not, of course, less dangerous than cosmetic pesticides. Non-cosmetic uses that are often more dangerous to humans than cosmetic pesticide use would include control of indoor rodents and insects (lack of ventilation, increased duration of exposure, less selective poisons in some cases) and food production (pesticides directly applied to a food source). We, along with the 17 other groups that have called for a ban, are asking you to prohibit cosmetic pesticide use not because such pesticide use is inherently more dangerous than other uses of pesticides, but because such use is inherently unnecessary. Because there is no substantial benefit to cosmetic pesticide use, their risks and the public concern associated with them cannot easily be justified. Thus the focus on cosmetic pesticides makes sense primarily in the context of the discussion of a pesticide ban.
If you are considering merely regulating pesticide use, then the question becomes not “what pesticide use can we eliminate as unnecessary?”, but “what regulations will best protect the environment and human health?” That being the case, we support extending a number of restrictions on the sale and use of pesticides to non-cosmetic pesticides, and have commented accordingly on these options. However, we stand with the hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who would like to see a province-wide ban on the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes.
You have until February 15th to comment on the province’s Discussion Paper. But we hope you’ll take a moment to post a comment telling us what you think of a cosmetic pesticide ban, or of regulating residential pesticide use more generally.
By Andrew Gage.