The Honourable John MacDonell Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Several days ago my wife and I were notified by a neighbour of a public notice, erected off a back road and barely visible, discovered only by accident. The sign theoretically (we assume to meet the letter of the law only) notifies the public of Northern Pulp's intent to spray a toxic chemical defoliant a kilometre or so from our homes in a few days.
In 2009, with all of the knowledge now possessed of the complex links and accumulative impacts of chemicals on the human body, the required public notification process seems woefully inadequate. If a corporate entity proposes to ostensibly place the health of my family and neighbours at risk, I would like to suggest that a much more meaningful process of public notification and discourse is morally warranted.
For the record-a neighbour moved the sign from its less than prominent position, barely visible from the road (see enclosed photographs-it is the bottom sign, almost totally obscured by underbrush) to a more visible location on the road. It was promptly moved back out of public view-presumably by a company representative. The sign contains a telephone number to be called for further information. When the number is dialed, the caller is placed on a dysfunctional carousel of recorded messages which culminate in an endless recording repeatedly asking the caller to punch the specified extension number. One is surely tempted to question whether there is intent here to appear to respect the law (such as it is) but to avoid actual public notification.
When finally contacted (not easily, and by means other than that provided on the public notification) a company spokesman repeated ad nauseam that Northern Pulp has a legal right to spray as intended and that the chemical trade name "Vision" is approved in Nova Scotia for such use.
I remind you that DDT was officially "approved" until discovered to be an environmental time bomb. I remind you that Fenitrothion was "approved" for forest spraying until children started dying in New Brunswick from Reyes Syndrome.
Pesticides and herbicides have been linked to many different types of cancer in humans from breast cancer (DDT) to non-Hodgkins lymphomas and soft-tissue sarcomas. ??Linkages have also been identified between home and garden pesticide use and leukemia and brain cancer in children. A National Cancer Institute study in the U.S. indicates that children are as much as six times more likely to get childhood leukemia when pesticides are used in the home and garden. ??A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health (February, 1995) found elevated levels of cancer in children where pesticides were used in their homes and yards. Now that we have entered the (enlightened) 21st century, municipalities across Canada are busy banning lawn chemicals.
The active ingredients in Vision are glyphosate and polyethoxylated tallowamine. A credible 2007 scientific study seriously questions the safety of this herbicide in light of new scientific evidence and calls for an urgent regulatory review. This is 2009. Has your department conducted one?
Yet, with the highest cancer and asthma rates in the nation, Nova Scotia clings to a seriously outdated and woefully ineffectual policy of public notification of the spraying of potentially hazardous chemicals in close proximity to human habitation (in addition to wildlife consequences). There have simply been far too many situations in Nova Scotia where individuals were exposed to herbicide spray, and weren't even aware that it was planned for that particular day.
In the internet age, Nova Scotia's absurd circa 1950s, obscure signage, public notification process is an appalling dereliction of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of government-public safety.
Will your new government address it?
(Representing 14 full time (including children) and 16 part time (including children) residents of Hemlock Loop, Stewiacke East)