Letter to the Editor – Roadside Spraying

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Dear Editor,

The critics of roadside spraying have read the Public Health Ontario report commissioned by our chief medical officer. It is her reliance on this flawed report is troubling. This report misses the fact that Dow’s pesticide, Clearview, is used with the adjuvant Gateway. Dow warns that Gateway is highly toxic to fish and aquatic organisms and contains ingredients that are carcinogenic. (Never mind the fact that Clearview is a pesticide made up of a mixture of two chemicals that were never tested together.)

It also states that wild parsnip is a hazard to the community, yet fails to include reported incidents of people and animals becoming ill after exposure to Clearview. Having voluntarily pulled, clipped and dug parsnip last summer to avoid having our local roadsides sprayed, we can categorically state that the plant didn’t harm us. Our poison-free efforts also protected pollinators whose food sources and habitats are being destroyed by chemicals that kill everything but grass.

The response to the concerns by Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario when children jumped from their school bus onto a roadside that had been doused with herbicide was to recommend that the children simply wash their hands. It is surely easier to caution children about a bright yellow flower than to figure out if they have touched an invisible poison. Washing is also the best way to avoid parsnip burns.

Dr. Stewart clearly has influence. She has made many presentations to local councils about wild parsnip and the use of Clearview. Councillors have admitted it was her presentations that clinched their decision to spray. Her report was even referenced by the pesticide applicator on the 2017 spraying contracts as a rationale for using Clearview! And last fall Dr. Stewart spoke to road managers at the AGM of the Ontario Vegetative Management Association which was sponsored by Dow, BASF and Greenstream.

She tells us to put our faith in this flawed report. Elsewhere, the Auditor General’s Report on Health Canada and the PMRA is highly critical of the process that registers and reviews pesticides. The Ontario College of Family Physicians Report on Pesticides recommends that family doctors counsel their patients to avoid pesticide use. Our own Health Unit agrees with the Missisippi Rideau Source Protection Plan in warning that we live in an area of fractured rock which is highly vulnerable to contamination. And if our own direct health risks aren’t enough, the beekeepers and organic farmers contradict the report by telling us that herbicides do indeed negatively affect pollinators.

Sorry, Dr. Stewart, but after two years our concerns haven’t been adequately addressed. There simply hasn’t been enough discernment or critical thinking when it comes to balancing the risk of pesticide exposure in our neighbourhoods with the risk of a vegetable we can easily learn to avoid.

Sonia Cirka

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