A group of Islanders is calling on the province to enact legislation protecting children and seniors from the potential risks of cosmetic pesticides.
Pesticide Free P.E.I., a grassroots group advocating for the prevention of pesticide-related health risks, has made its dealings with the government public after seeing little progress during private emails and conversations made during the past year.
The group has made a public calling for the provincial government to ban spraying cosmetic pesticides near playgrounds, day cares, schools, bus stops, hospitals and senior citizen complexes.
Roger Gordon, a spokesperson for the group and former UPEI biologist, said five provinces currently have a complete ban on cosmetic pesticides.
While the group would also like to see a ban on P.E.I., Gordon said right now the focus is on protecting the most vulnerable members of society.
“We recognize the government is not likely to do that (a complete ban) in the immediate future unfortunately. What we feel urgently needs attention is protecting children and elderly people from cosmetic pesticide spray,” said Gordon. “This is not an unreasonable request.”
Gordon said the group’s request for a 25-metre buffer zone near those areas would be similar to a current requirement for homeowners.
Residents that spray their lawns with cosmetic pesticides must give advanced notice to all their neighbours within a 25-metre radius of when the spraying will take place.
“It seems inconsistent to us that if any of my neighbours were to have their lawn sprayed we’d get a notice in the mail saying that spraying is going to be done… but there’s no provision to advise children that can come from all over the place visiting a playground,” Gordon said, adding that some studies have found that children are at a greater risk for harm from cosmetic pesticides than adults. “We think that is a dangerous situation and the very least the province can do is to put in place a buffer zone around these areas where children and elderly people congregate.”
Pressure for a ban on cosmetic pesticides increased after a public forum in Stratford a little over a year ago.
Pesticide Free P.E.I. was formed out of that meeting and has remained active since by lobbying members of government and holding another forum last month in Charlottetown.
However, Gordon said email requests and phone calls between the group and environment department officials have not led to any progress.
He said the group has been hitting a brick wall.
“We reached a point where we thought ‘we’re getting nowhere doing things in private’,” he said. “That’s why we issued this press release, it’s not because this is the first request we’ve made along these lines. We’ve sincerely tried.”
The group sent an open letter to Environment Minister Janice Sherry, as well as the department’s deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and other high-ranking officials, earlier this week asking the government to immediately create buffer zones near the areas.
The group said it hopes for the buffer zones to be brought in ahead of the lawn spraying season for chinch bugs in August.