Pesticides have become an undeniable part of our modern life, ranging from lawn and garden treatments on private property to spraying programs for commercial and agricultural projects. However commonplace pesticides may have become, concerns still exist about how safe they are and how they are regulated.
In New Brunswick, the federal and provincial governments regulate the availability and use of pesticides. Over the years, laws at both levels have been developed to protect human health and the environment, as well as to ensure pesticides do their job properly.
This fact sheet explains which level of government oversees the different aspects of pesticides management, and outlines the legislation and guidelines that apply in New Brunswick.
Pesticides are products that have been designed to manage, destroy, attack or repel pests. These pest control products can include chemicals, devices and/or organisms.
For the purpose of this fact sheet, pesticides have been divided into two categories: domestic and non-domestic. Domestic pesticides, which are intended for use by homeowners, are always clearly labeled "DOMESTIC". Non-domestic pesticides may be labeled "COMMERCIAL", "AGRICULTURAL", "INDUSTRIAL", "RESTRICTED" OR "MANUFACTURING".
All pesticides used, sold or imported into Canada (including those imported into or sold in New Brunswick) are regulated by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada through the Pest Control Products Act.
Examples of pesticides that fall under the Act include:
- herbicides (for the control of weeds or woody vegetation)
- insecticides (for the control of insects)
- fungicides (for the control of fungi or moulds)
Other pesticides that fall under the Pest Control Products Act are:
- swimming pool algicides
- material preservatives
- animal and insect repellents
- disinfectant and sanitizing cleaners
- wood preservatives
- electronic insect or rodent devices
A pesticide manufacturer who wishes to sell a pesticide in Canada must first register that product under the Pest Control Products Act and follow the registration process managed by the PMRA. The pesticide is put through a series of detailed scientific tests and studies, which provides answers to the following questions:
- Where, how and by whom will the pesticide be used?
- What is its toxicity level?
- Are there potential health hazards to users and/or bystanders?
- Will food and drinking water be affected?
- What are the short-term and long-term impacts on the environment?
The Agency then compares the risks and values of the pesticide to its proposed use through objective scientific assessments. The risk assessment considers the product's inherent toxicity (i.e., poisonous level), persistence and bio-accumulative nature (i.e., will its properties break down in the environment). It also examines the degree to which humans, the target environment and non-target area may be exposed, as well as any health hazards of the product.
The value assessment considers whether the use of the product contributes to pest management. As well, it examines whether the pesticide's application rates are at the lowest possible level to effectively control the target pest.
It is only after carefully reviewing this information that the PMRA will decide if the product is acceptable for use in Canada. If there are any problems with the pesticide, registration will not be granted.
Registration will be granted if the pesticide's safety and value for its proposed use are found to be acceptable. With registration, the manufacturer must ensure that specific guidelines and information appear on the product's label.
All registered products are subject to re-evaluation, which can lead to the suspension or cancellation of a pesticide. With constant monitoring, advances in analytical methods and improved evaluation processes, the Agency can be more confident that the pesticides used today are safe.
If any conditions of the product's registration are not met, the manufacturer can be found to be in violation of the Pest Control Products Act. This may lead to suspension, cancellation, use restrictions or the phasing out of the pest control product.
Every pesticide registered for use in Canada comes with detailed directions that appear on the label or in attached leaflets. These directions must be strictly followed. While federal regulators make sure these products are acceptable for use, pesticides, like commonly used household cleaners or medicines, can have potentially harmful effects if they are not used properly.
All pesticides used in New Brunswick are registered by the federal government, and only these pesticides may be used in the province.
Pesticide use is further controlled (regulated) under the authority of the provincial Pesticides Control Act and Regulations, which is administered by the Environment Department. As is the case with the Pest Control Products Act, the aim of the provincial legislation is to ensure that pesticides are used, stored and disposed of so that there is minimum impact on non-target species, human health or the environment.
Components of the Pesticides Control Act that provide additional measures of safety with respect to pesticide use, include:
Pesticide Vendor's License
Anyone selling or distributing non-domestic pesticides must be licensed, and must renew this license every year. The Act clearly spells out the requirements for pesticide storage areas and employee training in order to ensure a high level of safety for employees and clients.
Pesticide Operator's License
Under the Pesticides Control Act, any business offering pesticide application services must be licensed. Requirements for licensing include meeting proper storage and insurance standards.
Pesticide Use Permits
Any individual or business wishing to apply pesticides by ground, by air, to water or for research purposes is required to obtain a PERMIT authorizing the application. This permit contains operating conditions that outline the type of application, pesticides to be used, requirements for certification, setbacks from homes, water bodies and other environmentally sensitive areas (if needed), maximum wind speeds for application, reporting and public notification. The permit conditions vary with the type of pesticide application and are in place to provide additional safety measures.
Pesticide Applicator Certification
Any individual wishing to apply a pesticide must obtain a Pesticide Applicator's Certificate and renew it yearly. (The only exception is homeowners using domestic pesticides on their own property.) This Certificate is proof that the individual has received the necessary education and training to carry out pesticide applications in a safe and responsible manner. There are certification training programs for all types of pesticide application programs (i.e. training is available for professional lawn care, structural pest control and agricultural use).
The federal registration system ensures that any pesticide used in Canada has passed an extensive health and environmental evaluation with wide safety margins. When combined with provincial legislation, certification and licensing, New Brunswickers can be assured of a comprehensive approach to pesticides management. Of course, there are always additional steps you can take to ensure safety:
- Always read the label before using the product and follow all directions and warning symbols.
- To minimize exposure, stay away from treated areas until the area has dried.
- If you have concerns about pesticides, talk to pesticide application companies in your area, or your neighbours if they use pesticides or the services of a pesticide application business.
- If you are planning to use pesticides, talk with your neighbours before the application.
If you have any questions about the federal Pest Control Products Act, you can reach the Pest Management Regulatory Agency at 1-800-267-6315.
For additional information about the provincial Pesticides Control Act and our Pesticides Management Program, please contact the Pesticides Management Unit of the New Brunswick Department of Environment at: 1-800-561-4036.