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Habibi says it's hard to assess limits for pesticides.
Katy Anderson/the Gauntlet

Cursory chemicals

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Mayoral candidate Alnoor Kassam wants pesticides used for exclusively aesthetics banned.

"[The by-law] would ban unnecessary use of pesticides," said Kassam's policy advisor Kyle Olsen. "Necessary use would be to get rid of mosquitoes to combat West Nile virus, because that's a risk to human health, or to put chlorine in pools to get rid of E. coli. Unnecessary use would be to get rid of dandelions on a grass field."

Olsen noted the proposed by-law would have to be passed by city council, but could come into effect as early as next summer. He added that there are approximately 1,000 pesticide poisonings in Alberta every year, and half the cases are children.

"The most important thing is the safety of Calgarians," said Kassam. "Unnecessary pesticides are harmful to children and to pets, and we need to protect them."

Kassam explained that about 125 municipalities already have a similar by-law, including most major cities.

"It's definitely a good idea to have a by-law," said University of Calgary professor Hamid Habibi. "The problem is it's not easy to implement because we don't have enough data regarding risk assessment for many pesticides."

Currently there is extensive data regarding the effect of individual chemicals on both humans and wildlife explained Habibi. However, pesticides in water systems are not isolated, but found in combinations. Habibi noted that Alberta Environment recently measured 40 chemicals within the province's river system. Initial research has shown that in combinations chemicals can have a significant effect on normal body functions by disrupting the endocrine system, which regulates the body's hormones. Because of this, he stressed that more research must be done on how combinations of chemicals can affect both humans and wildlife.

"We need to see from politicians more funding and support for research to make informed decisions," said Habibi.

Habibi noted the City of Calgary have partnered with the U of C to build an experimental test site at the Pine Creek sewage treatment plant to test chemicals in the water system. The federal government has pledged $10.3 million, but in order to receive the funds the City and the university are awaiting funds from the province, which must match the federal donation.

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