VANCOUVER, May 30, 2002 - Now that the warm weather has finally arrived, people will start gardening, building fences and decks, painting houses and engaging in other outdoor activities. Unfortunately, many of these spring projects involve the use of chemicals that are harmful to the environment and dangerous to animals - including humans, says The Humane Society of Canada. Overall, throughout North America, 1.3 million tonnes of chemicals are released into the environment annually according to a new report commissioned by the Commission for Environmental Co-operation, an environmental watchdog organization created under NAFTA.
Many of the fertilizers and pesticides (such as the now banned DDT) produce estrogens when they are broken down in the environment. The effects of exposure on wildlife are only now starting to be understood, but they have been linked to infertility in male fish and songbirds as well as brittle eggshells. The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) is urging people to do what they can to eliminate or minimize their use of toxic substances.
"One easy way to protect children, pets and the environment is to stop using deadly pesticides, herbicides, rodenticides and chemical fertilizers," says HSC Western Regional Director Al Hickey. "Using harmful chemicals that place humans, pets and other animals at risk to kill a few harmless bugs or weeds don’t make any sense."
Another area of concern involves the use of pressure-treated wood. "This pesticide disguised as wood is harmful to the environment and animals. Children and pets are particularly susceptible to this pesticide wood which is routinely used to build decks, fences, playground structures, docks and for landscaping projects," says HSC Executive Director Michael O’Sullivan.
"In our view, it’s harmful to use wood saturated with arsenic, copper and chromium. This wood is a carcinogen. Recently, tests conducted in six Toronto parks indicated high arsenic levels in soil near playground structures made from pressure-treated wood. There’s a reason why this ‘wood’ is being phased out. The widespread, uneducated use of deadly chemicals has to stop," says a concerned O’Sullivan. "In the vast majority of situations where toxic chemicals are used, there are humane, non-toxic alternatives."
To help reduce the amount of chemicals used, the Humane Society of Canada offers the following alternatives.
- Don’t use pesticides and herbicides on your lawn or in your gardens. There is nothing wrong with a few weeds in your lawn and organic gardening books offer many humane, non-toxic solutions to dealing with insects and other animals.
- Find alternatives to using pressure-treated wood. Depending on the project that you are doing, some alternatives include: cedar, metal, bricks, stones, plastic and composite material.
- Don’t use chemical fertilizers. Compost is excellent for gardens. When cutting your grass, mulching your clippings and putting them back on the lawn will create a healthier lawn. You might also try using an appropriate manure.
- Allow your grass to grow. When cutting, you should only remove the top 1/3 of the blade of grass. Longer grass puts down deeper roots enabling it to better compete with weeds, deal with pests such as cinch bugs, and weather out a drought.
- Use a push mower to cut your grass, not only are they environmentally friendly, they provide a work out and are neighbour-friendly.
- Ensure that your house is wildlife-proofed so that you don’t have problems with mice and other animals. If you do have problems with mice, live traps are a humane, non-toxic alternative to poison and glue traps.
- Consider other ways to reduce chemical use in and around your home. There are lots of non-toxic alternatives to household products. For example, vinegar is used to clean many things.
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280
[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
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