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Scientist wants public aware of pesticides

Angela Hall

Saturday, October 05, 2002

The public should be aware of the unintended impact pesticides can have in order to make well-informed decisions about the use of the chemicals, says an Environment Canada research scientist based in Regina.

"I think there should be much more public awareness and concern about pesticides, yes, but not because pesticides are necessarily bad or necessarily good," said Don Waite, who spoke to University of Regina students on Friday.

While there is a health department that looks at the human health aspects, there is also an environmental aspect, Waite said.

The farm field may be an intended target for a pesticide, but chemicals might move into waterways, wetlands, forest areas or the atmosphere.

"I think we should be aware as Canadian citizens of how they move and what effects they are going to have so we can make a wise decision as to whether, first of all, there are risks involved or not. There may or may not be depending on the chemical."

People can then make an informed decision about whether they wish to take those risks or not, Waite said.

Pesticides are chemicals registered by the Canadian government for use in the Canadian environment, and they are designed to be toxic, noted Waite.

"If they weren't toxic they wouldn't be of any use. They're designed to solve certain problems in crop production, whether the crop is a forest or a wheat crop. And it's a decision of the Canadian people whether they want to use those chemicals for cultural purposes."

Waite reviewed research he did in the 1990s that looked at the use of the insecticide Lindane on canola seeds planted in Saskatchewan fields. They were able to show that the chemical gets into the atmosphere, and through work with atmospheric movement they could show areas in the Arctic and around the Great Lakes where the chemical might end up. And work by other scientists in the Lake Ontario area showed increases in lindane that seemed to coincide with the use of the chemical on the prairies, Waite said, adding that lindane has since been withdrawn by the manufacturer for use on canola seed.

"We can't actually say this molecule in Ontario came from Saskatchewan, but it you apply the chemical at a certain time, look for a bit of a time lag and then find it downwind, there's a coincidental relationship. In other words, it may be coincidence but isn't it an interesting coincidence that we put it here at this time and it came and showed up there at that time," he said.

Waite said globally there are 812 current pesticides. Pesticides registered for use in Saskatchewan in 2000 included 118 herbicides, 54 fungicides and 38 insecticides.

© Copyright  2002 The Leader-Post (Regina)


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