RMOW Environmental Coordinator
Wisps of countless vintage advertisements claiming cigarettes are good for you swirl through the air of generations past. In those days, smoking was said to effectively treat asthma, bad breath, throat irritation and more; though not recommended for children under six.
Can't see through the smoky haze? A few simple clicks on the web will transport you 20 to 30 years into the past where you will also find wild claims such as "More doctors, scientists and educators smoke Camel's than any other cigarette." And the headline above.
Today, doctors and scientists now agree smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of lung cancer and several other preventable chronic diseases. But what about those pesky pesticides? From the apple you just snacked on to the sprays that keep mosquitoes away, to the products that clean your pool, control mice in your storage units and treat weed and fungus invasions on your lawn, pesticides touch many aspects of your daily life.
Canadian research has shown consistent links between pesticide exposure and serious illnesses such as cancer, reproductive problems and neurological diseases, among others. Although their review found consistent evidence of the health risks to patients with exposure to pesticides, it specifically highlighted the fact that pregnant mothers, children and pets are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposure. This seems likely since our skin is the primary route of exposure to pesticides - children and pets make luscious green lawns a cozy bed or play area during the spring and summer months.
To prevent this toxic scenario here, the RMOW has a comprehensive Pesticide Bylaw and a citizenry committed to clean and green gardening. Bylaw 1822, 2007 prohibits the nonessential or cosmetic use of pesticides on all RMOW property within Whistler's boundaries and on residential private lands as of Dec. 31, 2008.
Who in Whistler is buying and using Roundup, 2,4-D and other banned pesticides and why? It's this time of year when my office phone rings continuously from concerned residents wanting to inform the RMOW their neighbour just returned home with a jug or two of anti-bug/weed juice and an applicator kit sporting the infamous skull and crossbones warning signs - the common symbol for poison. Even if you are not directly using pesticides yourself, your neighbour may be imposing negative health and environmental effects on you and your children through the application of pesticides on their lawns and gardens. Pesticides laden with toxic chemicals have the ability to leach into the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink.
When it comes to pesticide use and exposure, I urge you to take the precautionary principle, the act of avoiding serious or irreversible potential harm, despite the lack of scientific certainty. We've already learned the hard lessons of waiting for scientific certainty surrounding the dangers of cigarette smoke. Let's make today the day when a neighbour applying chemicals to their yards will seem as out-of-place as a smoker lighting up a cigarette in a family restaurant or on a cross-country flight.
You'll be happy to note that there are sustainable, non-toxic alternatives for healthy lawns and gardens, clean pools, and fewer mosquito bites. I invite you to check out these easy organic gardening tips and techniques at www.organicgardening.com. Encourage your neighbours to safely dispose of their pesticides and herbicides and make the switch to healthier alternatives. Take a stance today to stop your neighbour's pesticides from blowing on your lawn, or your face.
Questions or comments? I'd love to chat with you more about Pesticides and Human and Environmental Health. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604.935.8198.