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Preventative measures

To the editor,

I must say that last week's "An ounce of prevention" editorial made for excellent reading. Yes, the ongoing push to raise funds to find a cure for cancer has westerners perpetually frothing at the mouth for another band-aid solution, and understandably so given the current cancer diagnosis and death rates in North America. However, too few people stop to think about the cause and effect relationship between the state of our environment and myriad human ailments, including cancer. And even more removed from our thoughts are the links between government regulatory systems, corporate profitably, the health of the environment and our own health. I wish to share a troubling experience that personally demonstrated these intricate links.

Two summers ago, I was employed in the capacity of an outreach coordinator for a small environmental organization in western Canada. As a not-for-profit group we depended primarily on grants to receive funding that would enable us to carry out community programming. One such grant we received was a joint Environment Canada/Health Canada grant for the purpose of educating the public about links between environmental health and human health. We elected to carry out an education program about the environmental and health risks associated with cosmetic pesticide use. Part of our outreach program involved distributing lawn signs to homeowners who did not use cosmetic pesticides in their yards; the signs simply read "Pesticide-free yard" and they were emblazoned with the obligatory logos of various program sponsors.

Just before the signs went to press, we received a panicked phone call from a Health Canada official demanding that we remove the Health Canada logo from the signs. Health Canada, the government agency charged with the responsibility of helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, is also the government agency responsible for the regulation of pest control products (i.e. pesticides) in Canada through the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. It all boiled down to the fact that Health Canada feared legal backlash from chemical corporations if the agency was viewed to be publicly in support of pesticide-free yards. My up-close exposure to the hypocrisy of Health Canada caused me to once again realize that we cannot rely upon the government alone to protect our health nor the health of the environment.

A cure for cancer would be a wonderful thing; dovetailed with a government that protects our health, air, land and water without fear of corporate backlash, things would really be looking up.

By Rachelle Haddock

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