Federal Regulations Don't Work

Why a Bylaw?

Federal Regulations Don’t Work to Protect Human Health and the Environment

“The scientific and public community have lost all confidence that the federal regulatory system is adequate .”  Kelly Martin, Medical Doctor presenting to the Standing Committee on the Environment (1) 

The Federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is a branch of Health Canada and is responsible for registering pesticides for use in Canada. Registration by the PMRA does not mean that a pesticide is safe. In fact the Pest Control Products Act prohibits advertising pesticides as safe.

Chemicals Not Tested to Modern Standards are in Use

The vast majority of the over 7000 pesticide ingredients registered in Canada were approved before 1995, most decades ago, before modern health safety standards were in place. While the Pest Control Products Act was updated in 2002 to reflect improved modern health standards, this Act just went into place in June 2006. Even the new health standards do not take into account the many effects of pesticides on children and those with health challenges.  (2)

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) undertook to re-evaluate 405 registered and approved pesticides by 2006.  By Feb. 1, 2007, only 60 % of these had been reviewed or were being reviewed.  Of these, 40 % were either expired or removed from the market and most of the other 60 % have had their permitted uses restricted. (3)

Tests are Paid for by Chemical Companies
The PMRA approves pesticides if the studies submitted by the pesticide companies show that the probability of risk is "acceptable" (below a defined level according to animal studies) and that the product does what it is advertised to do (that is, it kills the target species).

It is the pesticide company’s responsibility to have the scientific testing done and then submit the results to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. It is questionable whether studies that are paid for by the companies are truly objective.

Combined Effects Untested

The science used in the PMRA registration process is not adequate to assess the health risks posed when pesticides are actually used around humans. Although the PMRA is now asking for some testing of pesticide formulations (the mixes of pesticides, binders, solvents, wetting agents that make up the products sold for consumer use) the scientific evaluations are mostly done on individual "active ingredients" - not on the pesticide formulations.  These evaluations do not take into account the effects when various products are used together as they often are by industrial users (lawn care companies, golf courses) or when they mix with other chemicals present in the environment. Read more . . . 

Non-active Ingredients Untested
Non-active ingredients in pesticide formulations are often up to 90% of the ingredients.  Companies need not disclose what these non-active ingredients (sometimes called “inert” ingredients) are because they are protected as proprietary information or trade secrets.  Yet they are often substances that can be harmful, such as the solvent toluene.   The tests are also done on lab animals so the results do not accurately reflect the effects on humans.  Read more . . .

Independent Studies Show Serious Health Effects
Independent scientific studies that do investigate the effects of pesticides in the environment are showing serious health risks and negative effects on the environment from using pesticides. Click here for more on the health risks and click here for more on the environment. However, these studies cannot prove the exact way that pesticides cause harm to human health. The only way to do that would be to test pesticides on humans. It would be unethical to directly administer pesticides to humans when we know the pesticides are probably harmful and there is no health benefit (as in drug trials).

Scientists have urged that we have enough evidence to act now to restrict pesticide use and should use the precautionary principle: “when an activity poses threat to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken, even though the cause and effect relationship is not fully established scientifically.”

Federal Health Minister and Supreme Court Recognize the Rights of Municipalities to Enact Pesticide Bylaws to Protect Human Health
For all of the above reasons the Federal Minister of Health (Anne McLellan) recognized the right of Municipalities to pass bylaws restricting pesticides as a complement to federal regulations to protect human health. The Supreme Court also twice recognized this right and urged Municipalities to use the precautionary principle. Click here to download a presentation of the Canadian Environmental Law Association.


1)  Kelly Martin, M.D., "Why Canadian Physicians Are Concerned about the Policies Regulating Pesticide Use." Presentation by to the Standing Committee on the Environment, 1998.  For Dr. Martin’s full remarks, click here.

2) M. Sears, CR Walker, RHC van der Jagt, P Claman, "Pesticide assessment: Protecting public health on the home turf." Paediatric Child Health 2006; 11(4): 229-234) Click here to download the abstract of the article.

3) As counted by a strong-eyed Coalition for a Healthy Calgary volunteer on February 1, 2007  from the PMRA's datasheet  -- click here to view. The PMRA's datasheet reveals 246 chemicals (in the left column) have been reviewed or are in the process of being reviewed and 99 products in the far right column that have expired or are to be discontinued.  Most of the remainder need new labelling with restrictions etc.

Click here for a summary article and the Auditor General's Office’s review of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency practices in 2003.

Click here for more on why the science used to register pesticides in Canada is inadequate to protect human health and the environment.

Click here for actions you can take to support a pesticide bylaw.

Click here
for how to use natural landscaping in your yard.

Adrienne Beattie

”I want to live in a Calgary where we put the value of environmental and human health above that of flawless turf” 

Click here for her story