Environmental groups have forced Ottawa to review the approval of up to 383 pesticide products containing 23 active ingredients including many with links to cancer and water contamination.
After a legal challenge by Équiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation, the federal government will examine these pesticide products, which contain ingredients that are already banned for use in Europe, and will decide whether to ban or restrict their use in Canada.
“The health of Canadians should be the government’s top priority and that’s why these reviews are so important,” said Sidney Ribaux, executive director at Équiterre. “If these pesticides are not proven to be safe, we must find alternatives.”
The harmful impacts of these pesticides are well-known. For example, Europe has banned Atrazine, one of the chemicals in the lawsuit, since 2004, but it is still approved in Canada for use on corn. Atrazine is a frequently detected herbicide widely contaminating Canadian surface water and groundwater, and poses health risks as an endocrine disruptor. The herbicides 2,4-D, Bromoxynil and Linuron, and the insecticides Carbaryl and Dichlorvos, are likewise approved for use in Canada, but have been banned by European countries because of serious health risks that include cancer.
With the initiation of these 23 special reviews, the groups have won the first round in their efforts to protect the environment and Canadians’ health. With this victory, the groups will now seek to put their lawsuit on hold, to give Canada time to fully commit to its legal duties to conduct pesticide reviews.
“The Government must now show that it clearly intends to protect its citizens and the environment from harmful pesticides,” said Mara Kerry, David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director. “Other countries have banned these pesticides because they are extremely toxic and degrade the environment, so why is Canada still allowing their use?”
Last August, Équiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation sued the Government of Canada over its refusal to take steps to protect Canadians from hundreds of pesticide products that contain 29 active ingredients.
Represented by Ecojustice lawyers, the two organizations filed a lawsuit alleging that the Minister of Health and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) acted unlawfully when they refused to review the approval of pesticide products containing three pesticide ingredients: chlorthal-dimethyl, trifluralin and trichlorfon.
The lawsuit also alleged that the Minister and the PMRA were unlawfully failing to review pesticide products containing 26 other active ingredients. These pesticide ingredients had been part of a request made in October 2012 by the groups, asking that the Minister of Health review the use of these harmful pesticide ingredients and decide whether to ban or restrict their use in Canada.
“Our lawsuit has forced Canada, for the first time in history, to do special reviews of pesticide products banned in Europe,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Lara Tessaro. “Going forward, we hope that the government will start taking seriously its duties to protect Canadians’ health and environment from exposure to harmful toxic substances.”