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Youth Driving Anti-Pesticide Policies in Canada
(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2004)
Canadian by-laws, which restrict pesticide use on both public and private property are being implemented this summer with the support of local youth. In at least two cities the youth have been particularly influential advocates for pesticide reform. By gathering the support of their communities and governments and presenting strong arguments against pesticide use these young people have helped successfully change local policies.

Toronto and Montreal are two of over 66 cities and towns in Canada that have now implemented pesticide by-laws limiting the use of pesticides. The City of Montreal has banned almost all cosmetic use of chemical pesticides, with new rules that will be in effect in some parts of the city this summer (see Daily News). The city of Toronto passed a by-law in May 2003 that only permits the use of products that pose little or no health and environmental risks (see Daily News). The law, which went into effect on April 1, 2004, significantly restricts pesticide use on public and private property. While by-laws like this are becoming more common in Canada, in the US there are only 10 states where local-driven policy, such as the restriction of pesticide use, can override state policy.

A recent report from the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP), strongly recommends that people reduce their exposure to pesticides wherever possible (see Daily News). The OCFP put together a review of the current research on the effects of pesticides on human health that shows consistent pesticide links to many serious illnesses. The report supports Canada’s movement away from pesticide use and was used as an information source for two students who are also concerned with the dangers of pesticides.

In Toronto, a 15-year-old resident is on a mission to make the new by-laws against pesticide use even stronger, according to the business group CBG Online. Eireann Oughton studied the laws governing pesticides after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and decided that the new law, “falls short of the change which is needed.” She argues for the elimination of all non-essential pesticides in Ontario, and her ultimate goal is to develop a federal law banning these pesticides. Eireean’s petition, which she brought to her provincial parliament, included over 400 signatures from residents.

Last week in Orangeville, Ontario Miranda Brar, aged 12, met with the mayor to demand a ban on pesticides, says an article in yesterday’s Toronto Star. She believes that a recent aggravation of her asthma is due to pesticide exposure and she wants to see a ban on pesticide use in her town. Together with four of her classmates, she brought a petition to her mayor, Drew Brown, which included 300 signatures from students at their school. They also presented personal stories of pesticide exposure, as well as examples of communities that have successfully banned pesticides. Brown responded positively, saying, “I’m in favor of banning their use. I believe we’re heading toward being pesticide-free.” He asked the students to form a delegation and speak at the next council meeting and to the town’s environmental advisory committee.

Children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure. They take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat and air they breathe. Their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. The U.S. EPA, National Academy of Sciences, and American Public Health Association, among others, have voiced concerns about the danger that pesticides pose to children. The body of evidence in scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child's neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels. Several pesticides, such as pyrethrins and pyrethroids, organophosphates and carbamates, are also known to cause or exacerbate asthma symptoms.

TAKE ACTION:
These young people provide great examples of effective activism and remind us that one person can make a difference. For more information on how to make a change in your community scroll down in the Beyond Pesticides How-To Factsheets to find the Community Organizing Resources. Also visit our Lawns & Landscapes issue pages for other important resources.