Garlon debate in Billings should ponder the unknowns

Hoping that council comes to see the light

To the Expositor:

Billings council will hopefully make a final decision on their stance for or against use of Garlon on May 16. It is clear from the statements made at the last council meeting that positions have now been staked out, some clearly against the public’s request, some leaning towards supporting it. I’d like all members of council to take a deep breath and think because we have all been hitting Google, council members and Billings taxpayers alike, with superficial questions on what is known about the active ingredients of Garlon, but I would like them also to think about the “unknowns” and what Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush’s Defense Secretary calls the “unknown unknowns” before deciding [of course he was talking about the WMDs that turned out to a figment of his imagination so who knows!]

I was told a story once about a late friend by her mother. When I had first met the lady’s daughter, she proudly told me she was a cancer survivor. In the short time I knew her she had cancer twice more. She also once casually mentioned that she had had her tubes tied (she was still a young woman). After her death, her mother filled in the blanks. Back in the 60s, when the mother was pregnant with her, physicians were prescribing all sorts of drugs to reduce risk of miscarriage, morning sickness etc. Her mother was prescribed three. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) a synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen. It was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and related complications of pregnancy. A generation later, the female offspring of those women became known as DES Daughters. Research by then confirmed that DES Daughters were at an increased risk for: Clear cell adenocarcinoma (CCA), a rare kind of vaginal and cervical cancer (which was the third cancer visited on my friend). They also prescribed Thalidomide (we all know about that now) and one other whose name for now I forget but a generation later was found (like Thalidomide) to result in a very high rate of badly deformed children born to the daughters of these women (hence my friend deciding to be sterilized).

I have no idea what the unknowns are with the active ingredients of Garlon—none of us do—but I don’t want to risk it. We know it is highly toxic. We know the Pesticide Act says it can only be used following strict instructions, use of hazmat suits, banning of humans and presumably other living creatures for days following its use. We know Hydro and the Town of Billings have as their primary tool brush cutting equipment which clears the area. They do not need to use Garlon to basically sterilize the ground after for years to come!

Because of the way the province changed the Pesticide Act in 2009, Ontario municipalities cannot ban or indeed approve use of pesticides. Their bylaws on this are rendered “inoperative” (Pesticide Act Section 7.1.5) but they can, and Billings should, express their opposition to Hydro’s use of Garlon (as Assiginack did in 2002), and indeed, if the Township uses pesticides itself, it should cease and desist its use to show how much council are concerned. I hope that on May 16, they see the light and reduce risk and unknowns and finally put this issue to bed!

Paul Darlaston