Advocates keep up fight for bans on cosmetic pesticides across B.C.

We need to change the way we think about our well manicured and immaculate lawns and gardens, according to Ashley Duyker, community action coordinator for the Canadian Cancer Society’s B.C. and Yukon division.

A few dandelions here and there aren’t necessarily bad, Duyker said, noting she has a friend who allows her children to play only on lawns with these wildflowers.

“She knows they’re safe and haven’t been sprayed with pesticides,” Duyker told the Straight.

Many Lower Mainland municipalities--including Vancouver, Burnaby, and West Vancouver--have banned the use of cosmetic pesticides, and New Westminster was the latest to do so in early March.

Duyker said that other municipalities are at different stages of moving in this direction as well.

These include Richmond, Surrey, Delta, White Rock, and the City of North Vancouver.

The District of North Vancouver passed a bylaw against the use of cosmetic pesticides last spring which became effective in January this year, Duyker noted.

“There’s a growing body of evidence linking pesticide exposure to both adult and childhood cancer,” she said. “And so the Canadian Cancer Society bases its decision on the precautionary principle that it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Mae Burrows is the executive director of Toxic Free Canada. Her group has been at the forefront of a campaign to have cosmetic pesticides banned throughout the province.

Last September, the Union of B.C. Municipalities endorsed a motion during its convention urging the provincial government to enact legislation to ban the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides.

“The New Westminster bylaw is one of just a whole cascade of bylaws that are happening in British Columbia and across the country,” Burrows told the Straight.

Burrows’s group has teamed up with the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment to fight for and win municipal bans on these chemicals.

The remaining holdout in Metro Vancouver is Coquitlam, where the idea of stopping the use of cosmetic pesticides hasn’t caught on among the majority of councillors.

It’s something that bothers Coquitlam councillor and environmental advocate Fin Donnelly as well.

Donnelly told the Straight that he tried to introduce a motion on this matter a few years ago but did not find enough support in council.

“I think it’s time to test the waters and take the next step,” he said.