Here are 5 reasons why restrictions on cosmetic uses of pesticides are so important.
1. Pesticides pose risks to human health.
- Independent, peer-reviewed studies have established that serious health risks are associated with human exposure to chemical pesticides.
- The range of harmful effects includes adverse reproductive, neurological and respiratory outcomes. Researchers have identified increased risks for Parkinson’s disease, asthma and obstructive lung disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), diabetes, and cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia and cutaneous melanoma.
- Exposure can occur through direct contact with skin (dermal absorption), through food and water (oral ingestion), or from breathing (inhalation).
Those at particular risk include children, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses, those with chemical sensitivities and, indeed, otherwise healthy adults.
- Pesticide toxicity can be greatly increased when other chemicals are added to the main active ingredient in retail product formulations. These additives may include surfactants, solvents, preservatives or other product enhancers. Formulations can be many times more toxic than the main active ingredient alone.
- See the Resources page of this web site for references to detailed overviews of more than 500 epidemiological studies documenting pesticide health risks.
2. Pesticides used on lawns and in parks are especially risky for children.
- Children are most at risk because of their relatively large body-surface-area-to-weight ratio, their long life expectancy (for problems to develop), and their direct exposure when in contact with treated lawns when playing on the grass.
- Dangers of exposure for children include increased risks of low birth weight and pre-term births in babies, reduced head circumference at birth, deficits in cognitive and motor development, hormonal (endocrine) disruption, neural tube defects, birth defects such as cleft palate, learning disabilities and other developmental deficits such as autism, and childhood cancers such as leukemia and brain cancer.
- In many studies, the harmful effects noted in children were related to the exposure of their mothers during pregnancy or to children’s exposure at a young age.
- For some harms affecting children, there are critical windows of vulnerability — i.e. pre-conceptual, prenatal or during childhood.
3. Cosmetic pesticides can contaminate our water.
- A number of pesticides are highly toxic in water, where they harm fish and aquatic insects.
- Some pesticide contamination of rivers, lakes and streams occurs as a result of drainage from agricultural land. But run-off from urban use of pesticides on residential lawns, city parks and golf courses is also a significant source.
- Pesticides that move through soil also contaminate groundwater sources that people rely on for drinking water.
4. Pesticides are risky for pets.
- Dogs and cats that play on treated green spaces are directly exposed to pesticides.
- Animals experience greater risk of illness and disease from exposure to pesticides, just as people do.
5. Pesticides harm pollinating insects that we depend on for garden vegetables and food crops.
- Bees and other pollinating insects are vulnerable to health and behavioural impacts from pesticides.
- Neonicotinoids (types of insecticides) are especially dangerous to bees.
- But herbicides used on lawns also pose risks. For example, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that exposure to low concentrations of glyphosate (a common chemical herbicide) interfered with bees’ ability to navigate back to their hives.
When these risks to human health, pets, water, pollinators and the environment occur as a result of cosmetic pesticide use, they are avoidable.
More information? See our Resources page for links to summaries of peer-reviewed epidemiological studies of health risks associated with pesticides.