Publication - Northern Exposure: Acute pesticide poisonings in Canada

Over 6,000 Canadians suffer from acute pesticide poisonings every year. That is one of the findings from research conducted by David Boyd for the David Suzuki Foundation report, Northern Exposure: Acute pesticide poisonings in Canada.

To download executive summary or full report (PDF-328 KB, 18 pages) go to:

To receive a hard copy of the report, contact Panos Grames — [email protected] or 604-732-4228.

The findings of this report are only the tip of the iceberg: many poisonings are misdiagnosed or completely unreported. Currently, the federal government does not systematically monitor exposure to pesticides. Furthermore, Northern Exposure looks only at acute poisonings—those that occur immediately following exposure. It does not account for chronic poisonings where the impacts are felt over the long-term.

Northern Exposure's accounting of Canadians that have suffered from acute poisoning from pesticides is a wake-up call to federal and provincial governments to take action. They have an immediate responsibility to begin: reporting and monitoring all cases of poisoning, educating Canadians about ways to reduce risks, regulating substances that pose an unnecessary threat to human health. Exposure to pesticides can be via breathing, eating, drinking, or direct contact with the eyes or skin. Acute pesticide poisoning can harm the eyes, skin, gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, liver, kidneys, and blood. In extreme cases death may occur (a very rare occurrence in Canada, although not in developing countries).

The David Suzuki Foundation calls on our elected leaders to protect the well being of all Canadians ­ especially our children ­ from the harms caused by pesticides. Human health concerns should be of paramount importance.

We offer seven key recommendations, summarized below and explained in more detail in the report.

  1. Require all pesticide products to be sold in child-resistant containers to minimize risk of accidental exposure.
  2. Increase funding to poison control centres with revenue to be raised, in part, through a special surcharge on all pesticides.
  3. Implement a national poisoning prevention program with the following central elements:
    • Designation of all poisonings, including pesticide poisonings, as reportable events
    • Implementation of the Prod Tox program that was shelved in 2002
    • Creation of a national poisonings database.
  4. Ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes (e.g. lawns and playgrounds).
  5. Terminate the registration of all pesticide products where the active ingredient has been banned in another OECD country because of health or environmental concerns.
  6. Establish a national environmental health tracking system that includes pesticide poisonings.
  7. Recognize Canadians' right to live in a healthy environment.

The surest way to reduce risks is to eliminate the possibility of exposure. The David Suzuki Foundation encourages individuals to avoid buying pesticides and ensure safe storage of all toxic substances in the home.