Citizen's Letter to Mayor of Okotoks

Dear Mayor McAlpine,
 
I am writing to you as a concerned citizen and mother of two young boys. It was recently brought to my attention that the Town will immediately be applying pesticides to the fields around the running track behind the Recreation centre. I am very concerned for the safety and health of the hundreds of children that will be directly exposed to these poisons as a result of this unnecessary and untimely pesticide use. This area is one of high traffic, especially of young children who attend Percy Pegler school, Okotoks Junior High, the skate park, recreation centre and the numerous soccer and baseball teams that make use of the space.
 
The town intends to use a combination of toxic chemicals including Mecoprop, 2,4-D and Dicamba. This particular combination of herbicides has been proven to cause kidney and liver damage, anemia, cancer, asthma, leukemia, decreased fertility rates, and immune deficiencies. Symptoms of exposure to mecoprop include red and burning skin, blistered skin, tearing, burning and irritated eyes, blurred vision, nausea, dizziness, headaches, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. All these incidents involved herbicides that contained 2,4-D in addition to mecoprop. Most also contained dicamba. This is the exact combination being used on Okotoks public spaces, parks and green areas! This is what our children and our pets are ingesting into their bodies. (http://www.pesticide.org/mecoprop_MCPP.pdf
 
Children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure. They take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat and air they breathe. Their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. The body of evidence in scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child's neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels.
 
Many people think that the pesticides “wear off,” and that children are not being exposed. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found multiple pesticide residues, including the herbicide 2,4-D, in the bodies of children ages 6-11 at significantly higher levels than all other age categories. Herbicides such as 2,4-D and Mecoprop, chemicals tied to respiratory ailments, are found in 15 percent of children tested, ages 3 to 7, whose parents had recently applied the lawn chemicals. Additionally, scientific studies show that herbicides such as 2,4-D are tracked indoors from lawns where residues may remain for up to a year in carpets, dust, air and surfaces. (http://www.beyondpesticides.org/lawn/factsheets/PesticideandPlayingFieldsltrhead.pdf)
 
 
There is absolutely NO reason why a town like Okotoks, that boasts sustainability and “environmental stewardship,” should still be using harmful pesticides when healthier, non-toxic alternatives are readily available. A substantial aspect of sustainability is the health, safety and quality of life of the population. Can we honestly say, that we as a community, have put the health and safety of our children at the top of the priority list if we continue to expose them, and ourselves, to toxic posions?
 
“We all breath the same air. What we do in Okotoks has direct bearing on the quality of life of future generations everywhere.” (http://www.okotoks.ca/sustainable/Air/Perspective.asp)
Does this statement apply only to CO2 emissions?  What about the immediate and long term impact of pesticide use and the effect on the lungs and overall health of our children? Is this not worth our attention?
 
There are many ways to organically manage green space and control weeds. Chemicals are not the only solution, nor are they the best. While initial costs to transition a chemical-dependent turf to organic care can be higher, in the long-run costs will be lower as inputs, like fertilizer and water, decrease.
 
But I ask you, what is the cost of NOT going organic? What is the cost of exposing developing children to known cancer causing, endocrine disrupting, and asthma triggering chemicals where they play for long hours? The price of getting rid of dandelions and other ‘annoying’ weeds is much too high if it means risking the health of my children.
 
I ask that you seriously consider the many healthy alternatives to pesticide use in Okotoks public spaces, in addition to proposing a bylaw to phase out the unnecessary use of pesticides on public and private lands in Okotoks. Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto and the entire Province of Quebec have laws protecting their citizens from unnecessary pesticide use. It’s time that Okotoks make this a part of our Sustainablity vision, making the health and safety of our children a top priority!
 
Here are a couple of fantastic sites that I would recommend to gain more knowledge in this area:
http://www.beyondpesticides.org/lawn/index.htm
http://www.healthycalgary.ca/index.html
 
I thank you for your time and attention and look forward to hearing back from you in regards to this matter.
 
Sincerely,
Michele Harshenin