Diane McLeaghn

I took my lawn "off drugs" about nine years ago. I make sure the company I hire in the spring doesn't use any pesticides or harsh chemicals on my lawn. I have it aerated and sometimes use organic fertilizer. In early summer I simply dig up dandelions or even just take their tops off! This is minimal work and I've never had a problem. The best thing is that I KNOW my family and dog are not being exposed to poisons and that I'm not putting more of these into our river and groundwater!

I would definitely support a pesticide bylaw which would improve our neighborhood's health!
I remember a summer afternoon a couple of years ago. I was in the alley cleaning the interior of my car. It was a hot but breezy afternoon when I began to hear a funny squeaking noise that seemed to be coming from down the alley. As my curiosity got the best of me I decided to stop my task and check out what was happening.

As I looked down the alley about two houses away I noticed an elderly neighbor applying a substance from an old fashioned looking, hand held sprayer. Within seconds I started to smell what I knew was some kind of herbicide or pesticide.  I knew because I immediately got a nauseous feeling that I have felt before when I have been exposed to toxic chemical compounds.

 I walked down the lane and inquired as to what he was doing. He answered spraying the raspberry bushes for insects. When I went on to ask what the substance was, he gave me the name and told me he had been using it for years. I asked if he thought it was necessary to spray a toxic substance, especially on a windy day. As he kept spraying, he replied it was the only way to save the raspberries.

Not wanting to breathe in any more fumes I quickly walked back to my car, locked it and headed into the back yard to rescue my two little Havanese that were waiting for me on the patio. I ushered them inside as I thought it probably would not take too much pesticide to negatively affect an eight pound and a twelve pound dog. I then noticed my windows were all open so I quickly closed them.

There I was inside on this beautiful day, car half cleaned, no longer any fresh air streaming through my window screens and feeling a little like I was being held hostage by this old man and his sprayer. Also I felt torn between compassion for an elderly neighbor’s ignorance and the sense of helplessness I was feeling.  I couldn’t help but feel angry that this same ignorance would negatively impact others who unlike me would be unaware of the situation. I went on to think how simple acts like this have such far-reaching effects - the air, soil, plants and water table to mention a few.

I decided I needed to find out if it was legal for him to be spraying this insecticide. I found a city number and eventually did contact someone who told me that yes the pesticide was considered toxic in high doses but not illegal to administer as my neighbor was doing. I felt defeated – what else could I do?. My thoughts returned to my half-cleaned car.

I cracked my back door to see if the spraying was over. I could no longer hear the sound of the sprayer so I grabbed a paper face mask I had used when painting and ventured out. I finished cleaning the car interior while thinking I buy organic foods, hair and skin care products, spring water, I avoid dry cleaners, I recycle and I do my best to be environmentally conscious. All this to help myself and others be healthy but even so I will never know how many others are doing exactly what my neighbor was dong today. Furthermore even when I do - I can’t control it!

I began to notice the second symptom of direct exposure to toxins – my head had started to ache. While fighting my sense of frustration I tried to reassure myself that I would be fine while at the same time knowing how long toxic substances stay in one’s system. As I headed back inside I couldn’t help but feel discouraged and disappointed. My sunny summer day had suddenly turned rather cloudy.

I look forward to the passing of a Pesticide Bylaw in Calgary so that all “two and four legged” residents can breathe freely and enjoy the few but precious months of summer.