Archive: Issues 2006-2007
Major Concerns Arising from 2005 and
Improvements Needed in the Pesticide Bylaw for 2006 & 2007.

The fact that the PMRA recognizes that Sevin (carbaryl) is unsafe in the domestic environment (especially because of impacts on development in children), while still allowing its use, illustrates why we have a Pesticide Bylaw - but we shouldn't be granting exceptions!
March 22, 2007. Virtually all of the issues outstanding in 2005 and 2006, listed below, remain outstanding at the beginning of 2007. Diazinon was taken off the shelves for consumers in 2006, but commerical applicators were still allowed to use up their stocks and permits for use of diazinon were issued in 2006 under the notwithstanding clause. Carbaryl use, still approved for domestic use by the PMRA, remained on the shelves and applied under permit. Unless changes are made, this scene will be repeated in 2007.

May 2006. Overall, the Pesticide Bylaw has led to substantial reductions in pesticide use in Halifax Regional Municipality. However, there remains significant use of banned pesticides within the community and unnecessary exposure of the public to those pesticides.* Major concerns about the operation of the Pesticide Bylaw identified by various individuals and groups in 2005 and passed on to RATE are listed below, followed by a list of improvements to the Pesticide Bylaw needed for 2006. A section on suggested improvements to provincial legislation related to pesticide bylaws will be posted later. Many of the concerns and recommendations listed below were expressed in a letter to the Mayor and Council in the spring of 2005.

* The continuing use of banned pesticides occurs in three ways: (1) on commercial properties (which are exempt from the Pesticide Bylaw); and on properties subject to the Pesticide Bylaw through (2) the use of the notwithstanding clause to issue a permit allowing use of banned pesticides in specific instances and (3) due to some illegal use of pesticides. In 2003 and 2004, over 98% of the permits granted under the notwithstanding clause were for control of chinch bug in lawns. (Source: Overview Reports available at; statistics for 2005 are not yet available (April 8, 2006).

Major Concerns about the Operation of the Pesticide Bylaw in 2005 and 2006 (and still outstanding in 2007)

  1. In 2005, diazinon and carbaryl, both identified as unsafe in the domestic environment by the PMRA in 2002, were applied to approximately 400 properties* under the notwithstanding clause of the Pesticide Bylaw for control of pests, mostly chinch bug. This clearly goes against the fundamental intent of the Pesticide Bylaw. *As no report on 2005 has yet been issued, we do not have a precise number.

  2. In 2004, pesticides were applied, under permit, next to one or more schools in session. The notwithstanding clause continued to enable or fail to prevent similar pesticide applications next to schools, playgrounds and daycares in 2005.

  3. In 2004, pesticides were applied, under permit, without regard, apparently, to the proximity of lakes, wells, and streams or storm sewers that empty into surface waters. Since there was nothing to prevent it, the notwithstanding clause continued to make this possible in 2005.

  4. In 2005, commercial properties continued to be exempt from the Pesticide Bylaw. Hence large commercial properties such as apartment buildings, condominiums, doctor's offices, P3 schools, athletic centres, shopping malls etc. are completely unregulated.

  5. Under the Pesticide Bylaw, pyrethrin-containing products may be used without a permit (except as specified by the PMRA), while pyrethroids (synthetic versions of pyrethrins) are not permitted,* There is virtually no discrimination between pyrethrins and pyrethroids by most retailers and consumers. Both pose significant health hazards and are broad spectrum pesticides. *Pyrethrins are listed as a permitted material on Administrative Order No. 23; their risks to health may be viewed at, and the risks of PIPERONYL BUTOXIDE (PBO), a synergist commonly used with pyrethrin products, at Further, MGK 264, often used together with PBO in pyrethrum products, is even more toxic than PBO, according to the National Institutes of Health TOXNET .

  6. In 2005, Insecticidal Soap still had not been approved by the PMRA for use against chinch bug, greatly hampering pesticide companies' ability to use alternative control agents.* (Individuals who applied for permits were apparently informed that they could use household soap as an alternative to diazinon and carbaryl.) *"Alternative control agents" refers to materials listed on Administrative Order No. 23.

  7. In 2005, some major retail outlets continued to market and, apparently, sell quantities of herbicides for lawn use. Without clear labeling, people in some cases may be mistakenly buying and using herbicides, e.g., in Weed 'n Feed products, believing them to be allowed under the Pesticide Bylaw simply because they're on the shelves, while a certain number of HRM residents are still using herbicides knowingly. (Landscapers have expressed concerns about this situation - see Letter to the Editor.) Retail outlets are certainly entitled to cater to owners of commercial properties and, possibly, to residents outside of HRM, but better notification that these products are banned under the Pesticide Bylaw is clearly required.

  8. In 2005, some major retail outlets for pesticides displayed no notifications related to the Pesticide Bylaw, and did not place banned pesticides separately from approved pesticides. Consumers who wished to examine or purchase alternatives could not do so without being exposed to the banned pesticides. See Presentation of Pesticides at Three Stores in HRM in 2005 on the versicolor website for specific examples.

  9. In 2004 and 2005, residents with acute sensitivities to pesticides had less protection from pesticide applications in their neighborhood than in 2001 and 2002 (when they could register their dwellings to not allow any pesticide use within 50 m; the registration system approved many fewer permits and did a much better job of advance notification than is true at present). Further, children, whose developing systems are highly sensitive to pesticides, are poorly protected when residents who are applying pesticides do not notify neighbors directly in advance of these applications (signs are not enough).

  10. In 2005, no action was taken to implement a minimum topsoil thickness and quality requirement in new developments, a step that was recognized by council as an important initiative in 2004. (Shallow, drought-prone soils are conducive to chinch bug.) A staff report on improving soil depth and quality standards was requested by Councillor Jim Smith in April of 2004. Staff and Council have apparently failed to cooperate in approving an appropriate bylaw requiring at least 8" of quality topsoil in all new housing construction, a change much desired by both the public and the landscape care industry alike.

  11. In 2005/06, the report on the Pesticide Bylaw has been delayed to an unacceptable late date. Apparently, the eventual report will be much abbreviated and could lack needed statistics such as the exact number of permits requested by residents (and the number approved), the exact number of permits requested by landscapers (and the number approved), the identity of specific pesticides that were approved and applied in the previous season, and the percentage of permits that were approved for specific pest problems (such as the more than 99% cited in the 2004 report for chinch bug - an insect easily controlled by non-pesticide approaches). Censorship or omission is not the way to reduce public comment and suggestions; real system changes that will improve the delivery of organic approaches to the public are.

  12. Apparently, citizens are being excluded from some of the crucial decision-making processes taking place during recent months related to the upcoming season. It is our understanding that while information about the 2005 season is not available to the public, nor has public input concerning the 2006 season been sought, HRM staff are holding meetings with pesticide industry representatives, Landscape Nova Scotia and the PMRA and possibly others to discuss threshold numbers for chinch bug and options for control. Exploring a "threshold system" for pest management is an industry orientated idea that would weaken the Pesticide Bylaw and could lead to unacceptable levels of pesticide use in HRM. Surely, if industry is being consulted about these sorts of decisions and, presumably, being provided with statistics not available to the public, simultaneous consultations should be going on with the public.

  13. In 2004/2005, the efforts of other municipalities in Nova Scotia to implement pesticide bylaws were hampered by NS provincial legislation (s. 172 (1) j in the Municipal Government Act). The jurisdiction that enables HRM to regulate pesticides is different than the jurisdiction for all the other 57 municipalities in Nova Scotia. Many other communities in Nova Scotia are considering pesticide bylaws. Their jurisdiction is very obstructive to the introduction of pesticide bylaws and should be amended.

Improvements Needed in the Pesticide Bylaw for 2006

  1. The permit system is awkward to administer, a continuing source of frustration and constitutes a large impediment to realizing the full intent of the Pesticide Bylaw. Hence, the permit system should be abolished (No Permits for use of banned pesticides for cosmetic purposes under any circumstances) or, if not, a schedule for moving towards its abolishment identified and followed, viz.

    • In 2006 and beyond, No Permits should be issued for control of chinch bug. The existence of alternative controls consistent with the administrative order no. 23 list is well documented (e.g., at and the Ecology Action Center Pesticide Bylaw Project personnel have worked with industry and residents for two years now to make them aware of these options. As more then 95% of permits have been for control of chinch bug, this move alone would eliminate most of the concerns related to issues (1), (2) and (3) above.

    • When applications are made for permits to control other pests, e.g., sod webworm, No Permits should be given if the pest can be controlled by alternative control agents (e.g., household soap). If a combination of cultural and acute controls is required, a permit could be given for the current season but not subsequently, it being incumbent on the permit recipient to institute appropriate cultural controls. When the number of applications for control of a particular pest begin to be numerous (e.g., more than 10 for the city as a whole), the party contracted to administer the Pesticide Bylaw should publicize alternatives, and institute a policy of No Permits for that pest within two seasons (e.g., if such a pest is identified in 2006, then No Permits would be given from 2008 onward).

    • When the total number of permits approved in a season drops below 300, the permit system should be abolished altogether. (Control of newly introduced, destructive exotic pests for the purposes of stopping their spread would still be covered by federal legislation.)

  2. ALLOWABLE MATERIALS DECISIONS: The Administrative Order No. 23 list of permitted materials should be replaced by direct reference to the authoritative and regularly updated CGSB and OMRI lists.* Only materials cited in those lists as Allowed should be allowed under a Pesticide Bylaw. This would (i) eliminate haggling about what materials should be on the Administrative Order No. 23, (ii) make the suite of alternative control agents more comprehensive and (iii) speed approval of new acceptable materials. Pyrethrins would not be permitted under this system. *See Canadian General Standards Board Organic Standards ( for organic growing conditions, and the Organic Materials Review Institute "OMRI" ( for their Generic and Brand name Lists.

  3. No Permits should be given for properties within 50 metres of schools, daycares, wells, playgrounds, parks, waterways, sports fields, homes for the elderly, clinics, and hospitals. Eliminating the notwithstanding clause 6(2) and the permit system may be the simpler and more protective regulatory solution to these problems.

  4. As long as a permit system is in place, individuals with exquisite sensitivities and other significant health issues which may be negatively impacted by pesticide exposures should be allowed to register for no pesticide applications within 100 metres as unanimously recommended by Pesticide Bylaw Advisory Committee, including the pesticide vendors on the committee.

  5. Communicate and enforce the permit and advance warning requirements to the letter (i.e., signage + written notice to all residences within 50 metres at least 24 hours prior to any pesticide application.) Just as with standard traffic procedures, spot checks are needed as an essential enforcement tool to insure compliance with signage and advance written warning requirements.

  6. HRM council should make a strong case to the federal Minister of Health to instruct PMRA to remove obstacles to registering insecticidal soap for use on all turf insects including chinch bug, noting that insecticidal soap is registered for this use in the United States.

  7. The illegality of using herbicides and other pesticides banned under the Pesticide Bylaw and associated penalties for violations should be highlighted to the public e.g., through newspaper ads as clear and uncompromising as the ads HRM now runs emphasizing that illegal burning is not allowed in the municipality. Where violations are disputed or require verification, HRM should have the capability and the determination to perform soil and water tests, as is the case with the Toronto pesticide bylaw, and likewise make this capability known to the public.

  8. WARNING: Pesticides which are illegal to use in HRM are present in "Weed and Feed," and "Weed Control" products, such as:
    • CIL Golfgreen Weed n' Feed
    • CIL Golfgreen Lawn Fertilizer with Weed Control
    • CIL Greenup Weed n' Feed
    • Spray and Green Lawn Fertilizer and Weed Control
    • Scott's Turfbuilder Pro Plus
    • Scott's Turfbuilder Pro Fertilizer with Weed Control
    • Scott's Turfbuilder Plus 2
    • Scott's Turfbuilder Plus Fertilizer with Weed Control
    • Scott's Feedex
    • Killex
    • Weed and Feed
    • Weed Out
    • Roundup
    and in pest control products such as
    • Grub Out
    • Bug B Gone
    • Tomahawk
    • Malathion
    • Meta Slug and Snail
    Fines for violations will be imposed.
    Retailers of herbicides and other banned pesticides should be required to post a list of prohibited products in plain view in every outlet that sells these products, e.g., as in the box at right.

  9. Retailers of banned products should be required to keep them in a location separate from products allowed under Administrative Order No. 23. It is curious that HRM Council on March 28, 2006 discussed strong measures to restrict access to spray paint in retail outlets in order to reduce graffiti* but has not given similar consideration to banned pesticides. The approaches for controlling access to spray paint are equally applicable to limiting the sale of pesticide products illegal to use in HRM. Council can and should approach the retail control of these products in the same way. At the very least a list of prohibited items should be required to be in plain view in every outlet that sells these products and the products should be in discrete locations. *E.g, "Working with them [corporate citizens] in order to tighten the distribution of these materials".. "Put them behind closed walls like pharmacists currently do".. "In Detroit, they actually banned spray paints... you had to show your license and actually had to sign a paper before you buy spray paint".

  10. Serious efforts should be made to highlight to the public the reasons for implementing the Pesticide Bylaw e.g., with newspaper advertisements and pamphlets noting concerns about domestic class pesticides expressed by physicians in HRM and elsewhere, environmental issues (aquatic systems, abundant in HRM, are especially impacted by pesticides) and the high level of support HRM residents expressed for introducing a Pesticide Bylaw.

  11. Retailers should be encouraged to highlight their pest control products that are allowed under the Pesticide Bylaw and to promote them as good for people and environment in HRM!

  12. A bylaw or other implement should be introduced to require a minimum of 8 inches of topsoil amended with a minimum 2 inches of compost in all new turf and garden installations in HRM. This will greatly reduce the demand for pesticides, also it will increase water use efficiency for lawns and gardens, thereby reducing demands on public water supplies.

  13. A report on the progress of the Pesticide Bylaw in 2006 should be issued before the end of 2006 and opportunities provided for public discussion of the report before the end of January, 2007; the report should be complete with detailed statistics on the nature of materials requested, used and approved, and other important benchmarks of the success of the Pesticide Bylaw such as the impact of education outreach efforts directed at retail outlets, the public response and feedback to workshops, invited lecturers and demonstration projects, and desired behavioural changes in industry norms. Similarly detailed reports should be made available each year before the end of December.

Posted April 8, 2006
Modified 22 Mar. 2007.