Alberta’s children are among the unfortunate 20% in Canada, whose parks, playgrounds and open spaces are sprayed with pesticides. On Monday, October 16th, Albertans can vote to change that.
Pesticides used for landscaping, to kill weeds and insects, can harm child development starting from conception, and increase risks of chronic diseases and cancer. Most Canadian children are protected, with requirements for least-toxic pest control options.
Alberta parents are very concerned. This summer in Calgary we were told of:
- Wheezing at a day camp during pesticide spraying of adjacent playgrounds;
- Burning in a grandmother’s throat from pesticides at a splash park, with four grandchildren aged one month to four years; and
- Rashes on children from rolling on recently sprayed turf.
Pesticides are the only chemicals we spread in the environment, specifically for toxic effects. A miniscule fraction reaches the intended target, and instead the chemicals pollute the air, soil and water, drift through windows and are tracked into homes by people and pets. In urban neighbourhoods without restrictions, children’s exposure to pesticides ending up in house dust can exceed exposures from food and water, even in homes where the chemicals were not used.
We know that Federal regulation is not sufficient – bylaws are essential to protect the vulnerable from pesticides, which are used repeatedly from spring to late fall in urban areas. Across eastern Canada, local bylaws such as in Halifax (2000) gave way to provincial laws, and Ontario’s (2008) is widely considered the best.
At Prevent Cancer Now we investigate industry-spawned claims, such as the “need” to spray turf “to stop children slipping on weeds.” Only rocks and mud – not weeds – were mentioned in scientific reports, and of course pesticides do nothing against these.
Paediatric emergency room doctors say that injuries result from collisions, not weeds, and that their greatest sports-related concern is head injury (including “heading” the ball). In fact:
- Doctors want children to play outdoors, including in natural areas, and without exposure to toxic chemicals; and
- Turf experts say that optimizing growing conditions for grass (good soil, water and cutting) is key to success.
The bottom line is that health and prosperity are linked, and they start locally. On October 16th, Albertans can vote for both by electing municipal champions for least-toxic pest control, and healthy environments.