Letter: Passionate plea for city to think again
by Contributor on 24 May 2013
You can find various chemical and biological hazards throughout our beautiful community. From the naturally occurring environmental hazards that are prevalent in our area such as Radon gas, to the manmade chemicals that are used in many ways throughout society, we are all exposed to a wide variety of hazards throughout our day.
Most of us do our best to limit ourselves to these toxins through the choices we make in our daily lives. When studies hit the news about the dangers of Bisphenol A (BPA), many were quick to stop using nalgene water bottles and check our plastics for the dreaded number 7 inside of the recycling symbol. As we learned more, we realized that our children’s toys, linings of tin cans, ice cube trays, and the sealants commonly used in dentistry were all in fact sources of this damaging chemical. The more we investigated, the more we learned. Information guides progress, and we, as well as governing laws and regulations, began to adapt.
We then started seeing product labeling proclaiming that certain products were now BPA free. So we purchased such products, and went on with our day – making conscious decisions about what we were putting into our bodies. Some people stopped buying canned food, as well as started to use glass and metal containers in place of plastics. Our children cannot always make these kinds of judgments, and so we do our best to make responsible decisions for them. We then buy BPA- free water bottles and send them on their way.
However, we leave many such decisions up to our municipal, regional, provincial and federal governments. Pesticide use in public parks and green spaces is one of these areas.. Much research has been done into the harmful effects of short and long term pesticide exposure, and the results are devastating. Farmers and children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of pesticide use. The Canadian Cancer Society is one notable organization that has provided invaluable information regarding many different harmful substances throughout our country and beyond, and has campaigned vigorously against the misuse of pesticides for many years now. Much of the information and research they have made known to the public has contributed to great advances in pesticide awareness and changes in regulatory law.
As stated in the Canada Cancer Society’s pesticide information page:
“Pesticides are used to control pests that can affect our health, safety or food supply. This use of pesticides is called non-cosmetic because it’s needed for public health and safety.
Pesticides are also used to make lawns, gardens and other green spaces look better. We call this use cosmetic because it’s not needed for health and safety.
Studies show that there may be a connection between pesticides and cancer in adults and children. That’s why you should reduce – and even eliminate – exposure to pesticides where possible.” (Canada Cancer Society)
In Canada, two Canadian provinces and 150 Canadian municipalities(38 within BC) have passed laws prohibiting the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. As of yet, the City of Castlegar has not followed suit.
We have found out that the Castlegar City Works Dept plans on spraying 2,4-D in some of the parks and playing fields around Castlegar. This chemical has been banned in numerous European nations because of its health and environmental concerns. 2,4-D is the main ingredient in Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam war to kill the foliage in the jungle. War veterans and the Vietnamese people still suffer many health problems due to these applications during the war. Again, 2 ,4 -D is the main ingredient used in Trillium, the chemical herbicide which the city plans to use this year.
A group of concerned citizens have created a Facebook page, “Citizens for a pesticide free Castlegar and Area” and a petition to allow the community to voice their concerns regarding pesticide use. The petition states:
We ask City of Castlegar and RDCK to refrain from applying pesticides in common areas until bylaws protecting our community from these toxins can be adopted. Applying known toxins to our parks, green spaces and common areas puts all of our health at risk. Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of pesticide use.
The City of Nelson, along with many other BC municipalities, regional districts, and school boards, have banned the use of these known toxins for several years; it is imperative that we follow suit. The health and well being of our community is dependent on it.
We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our municipal leaders to join other local governments in acting now to ban the application of herbicides in Castlegar and RDCK surrounding area parks, green spaces and common areas.
We need to find our collective voice and ensure that the city understands that we do not want pesticides that cause health and environmental problems in our parks. There are many other ecologically friendly options out there that do not cause these disastrous health effects. In fact, The City has quite a few such options listed as alternatives in their pest management plan.
The City has also stated that they do abide by The Precautionary Principle. This principle states: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures must be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” While it may not yet be definitively clinically proven that pesticides cause cancer, there have been enough studies over the last 65 years that show strong links between certain cancers and pesticides. We would like the City to start following the Precautionary Principle as it was intended, and immediately stop using these products in our common areas!
We would be better off reversing our approach and considering chemicals harmful until there is enough evidence to suggest otherwise. People, not toxic chemicals, have rights. We should err on the side of caution and place the onus on industry to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a product and the chemicals it contains or releases are safe (Boyd, 2010).
The pesticide issue has been brought up to council many times now, with not enough changes as of yet. The Politicians have the power and authority to abolish the use of cosmetic pesticides in our community, and they need to be made aware. Please support us in signing the petition available throughout our community to show that we are united against the use of pesticides in our common areas – the health and wellbeing of community members is in our hands.
Melissa Cline 250–365–3838 Citizens for a Pesticide Free Castlegar and Area Join us on facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/520978651273161/
Boyd, D. R. (2010). How to protect yourself from everyday environmental hazards. Vancouver, Canada: D&M Publishers/David Suzuki Foundation.
Canada Cancer Society. (n.d.). Pesticides. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/be-aware/harmful-substances-and-environmental-risks/pesticides/?region=bc