09/24/2012 12:15 EDT | Updated 09/24/2018 09:25 EDT

Dandelion don't: Manitoba appears set to ban cosmetic use of pesticides on lawns

WINNIPEG - Manitoba's conservation minister has all but confirmed there will be a ban on lawn pesticides to control dandelions and other weeds, although the extent of the prohibition is still being worked out.

"There are studies looking at the health and environmental impacts of cosmetic pesticide use, and the science appears to indicate that there is a risk," Gord Mackintosh said Monday.

"We also know that most Canadians do have different precautions across the country in place and ... the obvious question is shouldn't Manitoba children have the same benefits that most other Canadian children do enjoy?"

The NDP government released a discussion paper last spring which pointed out that all other provinces except Saskatchewan and British Columbia have restrictions on lawn chemicals to control weeds. The government has invited public comment until next month and is expected to make a decision sometime next year.

An industry lobby group says lawn chemicals are approved and regulated by the federal government.

"Pesticides receive a greater breadth of scrutiny than any other regulated products and only those products that meet Health Canada's strict health and safety standards are registered for sale and use," reads a response to the proposed Manitoba ban posted earlier this year by CropLife on its website.

But Health Canada also cautions that pesticides should be applied when there are no children, pregnant women or pets present, Mackintosh said.

He met briefly Monday with a coalition of groups that support the proposed ban, including the Manitoba Lung Association and the Canadian Association of Physicians for The Environment.

"One of (my) five children suffered from a relatively rare form of childhood cancer and had to undergo two years of aggressive chemotherapy," said Dr. Paul Doucet, an emergency room doctor and member of the coalition.

"Her type of cancer has been linked to pesticide use and exposure."

Mackintosh made it clear than a ban would only apply to residential and commercial lawns, not agricultural land. The question now is how far should the ban extend? Should it apply to personal use as well as lawn care companies? Should there be exemptions for noxious weeds such as poison ivy?

"How should our approach to reducing exposure to cosmetic pesticides in Manitoba look? That really is essentially the question that we're asking Manitobans," Mackintosh said.