Should the town ban pesticides?

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The use of cosmetic pesticides – products used to control everything from mosquitoes to dandelions – has been a contentious one.

How to deal with the issue varies from province to province and within provinces with no legislation governing cosmetic pesticides and is up to the municipality.

A report published by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) in 2016 stated Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia remain the only provinces that have yet to develop regulations banning or limiting the use of cosmetic pesticides.

Letters to the Cochrane Eagle and social media posts in recent weeks have demonstrated that Cochranites are concerned about the town’s use of herbicides.

In last week’s edition, two Cochrane residents expressed environmental and health and safety concerns in regards to the town’s spraying activities.

Here in Alberta, as of the publishing of the report last August, only one municipality had a bylaw outright banning cosmetic pesticide use – the Summer Village of Grandview on Pigeon Lake west of Edmonton.

The City of Calgary remains the largest Canadian city without a ban on herbicides. Edmonton had limited its spraying program in 2015, but resumed this month citing safety concerns on city sports fields due to a booming dandelion population. Its previous “ban,” allowed for limited spraying based on threats to public safety and infrastructure or for premier facilities.

Here in Cochrane, herbicide applications went from May 29 to June 15, targeting 47 separate areas within the five parks operations zones and using approved Health Canada products including Par3, Round Up and Milestone for the green spaces, according to the town.

Gerry Murphy, manager of parks and open spaces for the town, said the use of herbicide is the most cost effective and most effective way to eliminate noxious weeds, adding the town does employ other methods when appropriate.

“We have all kinds of alternatives to spraying that we implement … fertilizing, trimming,” Murphy said.

According to the CAPE report, various studies have linked herbicides and pesticides to increased risk of cancers. Children exposed to these chemicals were at greater risk of developing respiratory ailments.

While we hope communities, such as Cochrane, that do continue to spray use the best training and application methods to ensure public safety, it might be time for Alberta to apply a ban on cosmetic pesticides similar to other provinces.

It is likely doing so would receive public support, if a joint survey conducted last October by CAPE and Prevent Cancer is any indication.

Those results suggested that 62 per cent of Albertans would support a ban on cosmetic pesticides.

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Cochrane Eagle