Pesticides and fertilizers

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The use of lawn and garden pesticides and pesticide–fertilizer mixes has been the subject of public debate for some years. Some municipalities and provinces have restricted the use of these chemicals or have banned them altogether because of concerns about possible health effects on humans and animals. Few national data have existed until now on the use of these substances and the frequency with which they are applied by households.

Pesticides: Slight decline in usage

The use of pesticides by households has not changed dramatically since 1994 (text table 3.10). The exception is in Quebec, where strict regulations on the use of cosmetic pesticides have been imposed in recent years (text box 1). Households in Quebec reported a lower level of usage of pesticides than in other parts of the country, with the exception of Prince Edward Island. There is a regional pattern as well. In the East, household use of pesticides ranged from 14% in Prince Edward Island to 21% in Newfoundland and Labrador. Moving west from the Ontario–Quebec border, the proportion of households that used pesticides rose to 34% in Ontario (unchanged from 1994) and peaked in Manitoba at 44% before it dropped somewhat to 29% in British Columbia.

Text box 1
Pesticide bans

On April 30 2006, the province of Quebec announced a complete ban on the sale of cosmetic pesticides.

According to the Government of Quebec's Pesticides Management Code, it is prohibited to use the most toxic pesticides on the lawns of public, semi-public and municipal properties and, since April 2006, on the lawns of private and commercial properties, except for golf courses.

Pesticides use is prohibited inside and outside child care centres and elementary and secondary schools, and specific rules must be observed when using authorized pesticides.

Source: Government of Quebec. Pesticides Management Code. (accessed May 15, 2007.)

Text table 3.10: Households that used chemical fertilizers or pesticides on their lawn or garden, by province, 2005

The marked difference in the level of usage between Quebec and the rest of Canada was even more striking at the CMA level. The four CMAs with the lowest share of households using pesticides were all in Quebec (text table 3.11).

A closer look at the data reveals that while CMAs in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are similar in terms of the percentage of households with a lawn or garden that used pesticides, how they used them is quite different. In most Ontario CMAs, households were more likely to apply pesticides as part of a regular maintenance schedule—such as a program offered by a professional lawn maintenance company (table A.23). However, households in the CMAs of the Prairie provinces tended to use pesticides only when a specific problem arose.
Looking at fertilizer use, across the country, nearly one in three households with a lawn or garden applied commercial fertilizers to feed their grass and the plants in their gardens.  The use of these products was highest in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Fertilizer use was particularly popular among households in the two Saskatchewan CMAs, with well over half of households applying them.

Text table 3.11: Households that used chemical fertilizers or pesticides on their lawn or garden, by selected census metropolitan area, 2005