Friday, 6 December 2013
Pesticides for cosmetic purposes – do bans make things better or not?
For some of Canada a ban on cosmetic pesticides has been integral to normal operations for over two decades since the town of Hudson Quebec passed its bylaw in 1991. The by-law has been subjected to Supreme court decision in 2001 affirming that there is both the authority and value in such action.
Despite adoption of pesticide bans in both provinces of Ontario and Quebec (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have bans on a single pesticide product), and over 150 other municipalities in the country, the value of such actions remains hotly debated within the public health community.
Hence a review by the National Collaborating Centre on Environmental Health of the public health value of cosmetic bans is a welcomed contribution. The review appears to have been requested by the Chief Medical Health Officer in BC, a province with a recent history of local community fights and what appears to be split opinions amongst public health practitioners.
The detail of the potential benefits of harms and the extent of the review make the material seminal in terms of currency and well worth a read for any community with a current ban or exploring any restrictions.
While acknowledging the challenge in quantifying the benefit, the statement expresses appreciation for some of the value in an environment of some uncertainty.
• The impact on population health of exposure to pesticides used specifically for cosmetic purposes is difficult to quantify.
· There is poor quality of evidence pertaining to the direct health impacts associated with exposure of residents to pesticides used for cosmetic purposes.
· Acute and long-term toxicity has been demonstrated for many of the common pesticides used for cosmetic purposes, acutely in documented poisonings, and long-term, typically in studies of experimental animals, applicators or farm families exposed at levels well above those associated with cosmetic applications.
· Relative exposure to the active ingredients of cosmetic pesticides used in lawns and gardens compared to exposure to the same agents used indoors, in agriculture and commercially, is not well characterized, but likely is small.
· Possible harms resulting from a provincial ban of cosmetic pesticides may be the illegal use of toxic pesticides and musculoskeletal injuries among householders using manual methods to
• With regard to provincial public health actions, children are particularly vulnerable to exposure
and effects of toxins at all stages of development and would most likely benefit from measures to reduce exposures to pesticides from any source.
Credit to the NCCEH for having restraint in not issuing an opinion on the need for or against such limitations. The full document can be accessed at the NCCEH website or directly at Cosmetic Pesticides