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Choose children's health over 'killing dandelions' with pesticide ban: advocates to BC gov't

As the debate over a provincial ban on cosmetic pesticides continues, First Call, a B.C. youth advocacy coalition, is urging the B.C. government to consider the effects of pesticides on children's health.

Exposing children to toxins "for the sake of killing dandelions" is unnecessary, said Adrienne Montani, First Call's provincial coordinator.

The statement comes a week after a special legislative committee put in place by Premier Christy Clark decided not to recommend a ban on cosmetic pesticide use in the province.

Committee chair Bill Bennett said that the evidence presented to the committee did not justify the provincial government enacting a ban where the federal government had not.

First Call hopes the government will move forward with the ban despite the committee's decision. Montani said the coalition presented its case to the committee during the public discussion period, but its recommendations were ignored. Instead, the committee recommended extensive education to ensure that individuals are using pesticides safely.

But Montani countered that even if an education program could be put in place, the use of cosmetic pesticides is not worth putting children at risk.

"Children's right to a healthy environment trumps... profit. There is no right to have a harmful product."

According to Dr. Bruce Lanphear of Simon Fraser University, children are more at risk for cancer and mental complications caused by cosmetic pesticides than adults.

"Faster growing cells are more susceptible to toxins," he said. Cancers are more likely to develop in children than adults because of the high rates of growth by cells in a child's body.

Lanphear specializes in prenatal development and said his research shows that when pregnant women are exposed to even low levels of toxins, their child is more likely to have ADHD and lower IQ scores. However, these tests were not done specifically with household pesticides.

"Children lack the detoxifying enzymes that adults have," Lanphear said. Since they can't fight the toxins as efficiently, children are at a greater risk of health issues at low exposures than adults.

Lanphear presented evidence about the negative effects of pesticides on children at a public forum hosted by First Call on May 11.

Hanah Redman is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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