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BC Medical Community Debunks Pesticide Myths and Urges Government to Act

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-06-04 - Medical Community Debunks Common Myths and Urges BC Government to Act on Pesticides. For further information pertaining to this article contact: CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY (BC AND YUKON DIVISION).
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Medical Community Debunks Common Myths and Urges BC Government to Act on Pesticides

A group of eight British Columbia medical and health organizations are calling on the provincial government to enact province-wide legislation banning the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides. The group is also clarifying two common myths surrounding cosmetic pesticides because of emerging evidence of human toxicity, especially to the vulnerable, young and old.

"Despite the completion on a stakeholder consultation process three months ago, the government has again failed to legislate a cosmetic pesticide ban in British Columbia to help prevent cancer," says Barbara Kaminsky, CEO Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon. "Unity of leading medical organizations on this topic demonstrates that there is support for such legislation. It is time the Government of British Columbia did the right thing to protect B.C. residents from an unnecessary cancer risk."

A recent poll by Ipsos Reid also found that 85% of British Columbia residents support alternatives to cosmetic pesticides.

The medical and health organizations in BC that stand behind the Canadian Cancer Society's efforts include:

The Public Health Association of BC

UBC Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics

The BC Lung Association

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

InspireHealth: Integrated Cancer Care

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, BC/Yukon Region

Canadian Cancer Society Chair in Cancer Primary Prevention

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, Western Region

"Reducing pesticides in the environment is a prudent cautionary action, particularly when good alternative approaches to cosmetic pesticides are available," says Dr. Paul Hasselback, Public Health Physician, Public Health Association of BC. "Numerous Canadian communities have already successfully reduced pesticide use; it is something the majority of Canadians support and most Canadians are very concerned about the health effects of pesticides."

"There is evidence that pesticide exposure may elevate the risk for behavior problems in children, such as ADHD," says Dr. Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH, Senior Scientist, Child & Family Research Institute Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

B.C.'s medical and health professionals also clarified two common myths surrounding cosmetic pesticides.

Common Myth: Health Canada already regulates cosmetic pesticides, and this is sufficient.

All levels of government share responsibility for protecting health and the environment. As Quebec's National Public Health Institute stated, in support of reducing the use of lawn and garden pesticides, "The data which are presently available, the fact that certain aspects remain poorly understood, and the increased vulnerability of certain groups provide ample reason to justify taking a prudent approach and applying the precautionary principle with respect to pesticide use.

Over 160 municipalities across Canada have passed bylaws to restrict the use of lawn and garden pesticides.

Common Myth: Cosmetic pesticides are safe

Scientific research shows a link between cancer and pesticides, and further, that more research must be done to fully understand the impact on human health. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) tests chemicals including pesticides and pesticide ingredients, to find out if they cause cancer in people. The US National Toxicology Program has also identified some active ingredients in pesticides as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen". Its evaluations support the evidence that some pesticides have cancer-causing properties.

Studies also show that there is a growing body of evidence showing a connection between cosmetic pesticides and cancer in adults and children. Most research on pesticides has focused on occupational exposure and has linked it to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia and cancers of the prostate, kidney, brain and lung.


Additional medical commentary on the public health effects of cosmetic pesticide use include:

"At regular intervals, new evidence comes forward citing the link between pesticides and cancer, birth defects, and neurological illness," says Warren Bell, MD, and past founding president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. "The bulk of the evidence shows that children especially babies still in the womb, are at greatest risk."

"We recognize that the responsible and cautious use of chemical formulations to reduce or eliminate 'pests' in our food supply chain and other parts of our lives is necessary, but we do not agree with the indiscriminate use of pesticides for unnecessary or cosmetic reasons," says Scott McDonald, Executive Director, the BC Lung Association. "The risks to human health and the environment are simply too great. That is why we fully support the Canadian Cancer Society's position for a province-wide ban."

"There is a growing body of evidence that pesticides are implicated as a potential factor in cancer development," says Dr. Hal Gunn, CEO M.D, InspireHealth. "For the safety of our children and our society, a ban on the use of cosmetic pesticides is an important step in creating a world where our exposure to environment toxins is minimized."

For More Information:

The BC Lung Association: Scott McDonald, Executive Director

UBC Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics: Dr. Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH, Senior Scientist, Child & Family Research

Institute Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University

The Public Health Association of BC: Dr. Paul Hasselback, Public Health Physician

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, BC/Yukon Region: Marcelo Dominguez, Manager, Marketing & Communications

Canadian Cancer Society Chair in Cancer Primary Prevention: Dr. Carolyn Gotay

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333.

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