Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's submission RE: Policy proposal, notice of intent to introduce legislation that would ban the cosmetic use of pesticides in Ontario
Download the entire submission here.
SUBMISSIONS OF LAKE ONTARIO WATERKEEPER TO THE ONTARIO MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT REGARDING: POLICY PROPOSAL, NOTICE OF INTENT TO INTRODUCE LEGISLATION THAT WOULD BAN THE COSMETIC USE OF PESTICIDES IN ONTARIO
EBR # 010-2248
February 15, 2008
SUBMITTED TO: ROBERT BILYEA, SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT STRATEGIC POLICY BRANCH 135 ST. CLAIR AVE WEST, FLOOR 11 TORONTO, ON M4V 1P5
On November 20, 2007, the provincial government made a commitment to reduce toxins in the environment to protect our health and the health of our kids. One approach being considered by the government to begin fulfilling this commitment is the banning of cosmetic pesticides use. Before moving ahead with this proposed strategy, the government has solicited feedback from the public in order to consider different policy options such as the implementation date and scope of the ban.
As a charitable environmental group fighting to win back our rights to safely swim, drink and fish, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper supports efforts to reduce toxins in the environment. The ongoing struggle to keep toxins out of our drinking water is one of Waterkeeper's primary concerns. The Great Lakes, four of which are in Ontario, provide drinking water for the surrounding 40 million residents. The toxins that we apply to our lawns run off directly into our drinking water due to our outdated stormwater systems. We must prohibit chemicals from being applied to the land in the first place because of this lack of water treatment and the impact it has on our waterways.
Similar efforts to keep pesticides out of the environment were undertaken by various municipalities throughout the country. In some places, the right of a municipality to implement bylaws banning pesticides has been a hard fought legal battle. One of the main reasons Waterkeeper supports efforts to limit pesticides is to more effectively and efficiently achieve uniformity across the province without having to implement such bylaws one municipality at a time.
Waterkeeper also supports this proposed ban because a prohibition of cosmetic pesticides is the most effective way to keep toxins out of our waterways. In Waterkeeper's experience, the adoption of a policy regime dependent on optional guidelines does not result in significant environmental improvements. Even establishing enforceable standards, which is a huge improvement on guidelines, would provide less desirable results than an outright ban as action can only be taken retroactively once harm has occurred. As such, a prohibitive piece of legislation provides the best option for achieving real results.
It should be noted that while there is a clear need to ban pesticides in urban settings for cosmetic purposes, additional steps will need to be undertaken to improve our water quality. The exponentially greater use of herbicides in the Boreal Forest by forestry companies, for example, must be address if the provincial government intends to fulfill its commitment to fully remove pesticides from the environment.
The proposed policy sets out a number of questions to be considered. These will be addressed in order below.
1. Determining the Scope of the Ban
Banning the cosmetic uses of pesticides on lawns, gardens, parks and schoolyards is an excellent start to improving the quality of our drinking water. The use of pesticides should be minimized or eliminated wherever possible. Making a recommendation on what uses should be included in this ban requires additional empirical evidence outlining the distribution of pesticide used in the province of Ontario.
2. Sale of Cosmetic Pesticides
An essential part of making this proposed policy effective is banning the sale of pesticides when solely for cosmetic purposes. A prohibition on the sale of such chemicals would strengthen the proposed policy/legislation. To do otherwise would send consumers conflicting signals. Waterkeeper suggests that outreach and educational strategies be used to inform the public of why the ban is in place and why this is an important and positive development.
If golf courses are to be exempt from this ban, then the government must adhere to its assertion that golf courses will be required to develop plans to limit the environmental impact of pesticides. This exemption should be viewed as a privilege, one that a large portion of Ontarians will bear the brunt of while never experiencing the benefit. To have anything less than the most stringent restrictions on golf courses would likely offend those citizens.
The projected spring of 2008 implementation of this legislation is very encouraging. Such a ban should come into force as soon as possible. A phased-in implementation, however, seems unnecessary. While this particular legislation may be new, the demand for such legislation is many years old. The proliferation over the past decade of local bylaws banning these chemicals pays tribute to this reality. The cosmetic use of pesticides is not crucial to our lifestyle or health, conditions that usually exist where a phase-in approach has been justified (such as in the case of chlorofluorocarbons).
Recommendation #1 â€“ That legislation banning the cosmetic use of pesticides should be adopted into legislation as soon as possible.
Recommendation #2 â€“ That the sale of pesticides for cosmetic uses be banned.
Recommendation #3 â€“ That educational and outreach efforts be directed at building an understanding of why a ban is necessary and alternatives that Ontarians can use once a ban is in place.
Recommendation #4 â€“ That benchmarks be established in order to assess the progress being made in the removal of these toxins from our waterways.
Recommendation #5 â€“ That a careful comparative assessment of the quantity of pesticides being used for different purposes â€“ such as forestry, agriculture, cosmetic and other â€“ be compiled to better understand the reality of toxins in this province. The outcome of such studies should be used to implement new strategies for removing pesticides from our drinking water and environment.
In light of the vulnerability of the Great Lakes water basin, the proposed policy ban on pesticides is a positive step in improving water quality. With our current understanding of the negative environmental and health impacts of pesticides, there is no longer any justification for subjecting people to these unnecessary toxins. This is especially true given the poor and deteriorating conditions of many of our waterways and the water quality for residents of Ontario and beyond.
Thank you for considering our submissions.
Mark Mattson President & Waterkeeper