Like every other Edmontonian right now, I’m pining for green, for hope beneath the gritty grey and white we’re so tired of.

But emerging green brings troubles, too, things like gardeners emerging from hibernation eager to get snow moulds and dead grass out of their lawns, eager to get them greening up fast minus thistles and dandelions—gardeners who still don’t understand the folly of weed and feed products, despite the Canadian Medical Association call for a country-wide ban in Canada.

Why is this even open to debate anymore? It’s not like weed and feed use on our urban and suburban lawns is essential to our well-being. Discontinuing their use, however, is essential not only to our health but to the health of our planet.

Pesticides (an umbrella term for things that kill bugs and weeds) and their by-products are toxic and bioaccumulative—despite defences made by industry. They have been implicated in cancers, neurological disorders, reproductive problems and now gestational diabetes.

Maybe we’re still oblivious because we’ve become immune to words like bioaccumulative and toxic. Bioaccumulative (accumulation of a substance in the environment faster than it can be cleaned out due to its long biological life) means the risk of toxic substances rises steadily even when input doses are very low.

Or maybe we’re not motivated to fight dandelions with our hands because we’re too busy, always in a hurry, barely able to stay on top of more pressing things like keeping our jobs and getting the kids to soccer. We have room to be conscious of wanting nice lawns, but not to fuss with them.

Maybe, to motivate us, we need someone to paint a picture of what neurological disorders really look like. Maybe we don’t care much because we’ve never seen epilepsy or autism or multiple sclerosis up close. Maybe we don’t believe things like that happen to babies or teens or young adults on the cusp of their lives. Or maybe we don’t believe there is a link between illness and the things we put into our environment.

I’ve seen some of those up close, though, in young children and young adults, and they scare me—cancers that couldn’t be beaten in young classmates of my children and in young women leaving lovers and children behind. Multiple sclerosis in young women living full lives, only to have them stripped down to a small percentage of what they were. Epilepsy in a baby.

Our lungs are hurting, too, as everyone with an asthma-afflicted child knows. But choosing not to use lawn pesticides for the health of our own family seems a little futile when neighbours and golf courses still use them freely.

That’s because weed and feed products don’t just stay on the treated lawn. Besides ending up in the groundwater and on neighbouring lawns, they’re carried indoors by wind where they linger even longer, where they’re absorbed into the skin of children playing on the carpets.

It seems like a no-brainer to me. Alternate and organic gardening practices can result in lovely lawns. Mine grows like mad, gives me tons of exercise and is always lush and green.

But even if that weren’t true, and even if the research doesn’t consistently and unequivocally show harm from pesticides, why not err on the side of caution? We all know how science changes like the wind, how studies can be biased. And we should, if we don’t already, wonder about the wisdom of relying on data provided by the manufacturers of pesticides, which is in fact where much of the data asserting that links to illness have not been proven comes from.

Over 120 Canadian communities, the entire province of Quebec and several European countries now have bylaws restricting or banning pesticide use. Wouldn’t it be nice if Albertans made an equally intelligent decision?

For those interested in stopping the craziness, there is a local group—Pesticide Free Edmonton—circulating a petition to ban their use. It can be found at

Source: Connie Howard,