Ontario’s Cosmetic Pesticides Ban
& Guide to Healthy Lawns & Gardens

Ontario’s Cosmetic Pesticides Ban

Ontario’s cosmetic pesticides ban will take effect April 22, 2009. The requirements of the ban are detailed in Ontario Regulation 63/09 and the Pesticides Act, which was amended by the Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act, 2008. Butterfly

The provincial ban supersedes local municipal pesticides bylaws to create one clear, transparent and understandable set of rules across the province.

Pesticides cannot be used for cosmetic purposes on lawns, vegetable and ornamental gardens, patios, driveways, cemeteries, and in parks and school yards. There are no exceptions for pest infestations (insects, fungi or weeds) in these areas, as lower risk pesticides, biopesticides and alternatives to pesticides exist. More than 250 pesticide products are banned for sale and over 80 pesticide ingredients are banned for cosmetic uses.  For more information on how to dispose of pesticides within Durham Region please see “Pesticide Disposal” below.

There are exceptions for public health or safety reasons such as fighting West Nile Virus, killing stinging insects like wasps, or controlling poison ivy and other plants poisonous to the touch. Other exceptions include agriculture and forestry.

Notice Signs

Homeowners can apply biopesticides or lower risk pesticides to control weeds and other pests on lawns, gardens, driveways and other areas around the home.  However, if licensed exterminators use a lower risk pesticide or biopesticide, the exterminator must post a green notice sign on the lawn. This sign makes it clear that the exterminator is not using an illegal pesticide and satisfies the public’s right to know about the use of a pesticide.  For example, if an exterminator treated a lawn with corn gluten meal to suppress weeds, he/she would need to post a green sign.

Pesticides & Your Health

A pesticide is a chemical (or organic) substance designed to kill, control or repel living organisms such as weeds, insects and rodents. Fertilizers containing herbicides (weed killers) are considered pesticides.

Pesticides are regulated to keep risks to human health and the environment low. Although some research has found links between pesticides and health outcomes such as cancer and reduced fertility, other studies have found no association.

Since the long-term health impacts of pesticide use are not fully understood, it makes sense to reduce risks whenever possible. Avoiding pesticide use also helps prevent contamination of streams, rivers and ground water.

Children may be more at risk of developing health problems from pesticides because:

Alternatives to Pesticides

Growing healthy plants without pesticides may require a change in practice. The following strategies offer some successful alternatives.

Integrated Plant Health Care (IPHC) is a process used to assess a pest problem and decide on a solution that will prevent or reduce the use of pesticides. The different stages to IPHC include:

  1. Identify potential pest (insect or weed).
  2. Determine the extent of the problem.
  3. Use control methods that avoid using pesticides.
  4. Reduce pest numbers to acceptable levels.
  5. Evaluate the effectiveness.

Since many organisms are beneficial to our environment, be tolerant of a few dandelions, weeds and insects.

Organic Solutions to Common Problems
Symptom Cause Solution
  • Compacted soil
  • Thin turf
  • Aerate soil
  • Remove with a suitable tool
  • Overseed
  • Compacted soil
  • Poor soil
  • Aerate soil
  • Raise mowing height
    to at least 6-8 cm
    (2.5- 3 inches)
  • Remove with a suitable tool
  • Apply organic fertilizer
White Grub
  • Compacted soil
  • Dry lawn
  • Thatch accumulation
  • Aerate soil
  • Dethatch
  • Water deeply
  • Overseed
  • Apply organic fertilizer
Chinch Bug
  • Compacted soil
  • Stressed or weakened grass
  • Thatch accumulation
  • Aerate soil
  • Dethatch
  • Water deeply
  • Overseed
  • Apply organic fertilizer

Turf Management

Healthy soil is important for the maintenance of a lush, pest resistant lawn. A natural vigorous lawn can be achieved if you follow these practical tips.

Easy steps to a healthy lawn:

  1. Raking
    Use a rake to remove dead grass (thatch) in late spring when new grass has grown and soil is dry. Throughout the mowing season, leave your grass clippings on the lawn to boost soil fertility.
  1. Aerating
    Aeration (removing small plugs of earth) allows oxygen, nutrients and water to enter the soil.
  1. Topdressing
    Spread compost, topsoil or composted manure over your lawn after aerating. This adds
    nutrients and microorganisms to your lawn. Using compost also help reduce the amount of
    garbage going to landfill sites.
  1. Mowing
    Cutting grass too short weakens it. The ideal height is 6 to 8 cm (2.5 to 3 inches). Cut grass with a sharp blade and never cut more than one-third of the grass stem at a time. Taller turf shades the soil, keeping it moist and minimizes weeds that prefer sunny and open areas.
    Remember to leave grass clippings on the lawn.
  1. Watering
    Water deeply and infrequently; apply 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water including rainfall approximately
    once a week. Excessive watering can lead to poor growing conditions and disease problems.
    Early morning or early evening is the best time for watering.
  1. Weeding
    Dig out weeds and their roots with a dandelion fork or other tool. Boiling water or vinegar can be poured on weeds that grow between patio stones.
  1. Overseeding
    Spread drought-tolerant and/or pest-resistant seed on your lawn every fall. Consult a person
    knowledgeable about your specific needs.
  1. Fertilizing
    Every fall use a slow-release granular fertilizer or add organic material on your lawn to add nutrients to the soil over the winter.

Garden AlternativesYellow Flower

Always consider natural alternatives when dealing with pest-related problems. Using chemical products may destroy beneficial insects, animals and plants in your garden. Companion planting is a technique used to attract beneficial partners such as bees, wasps, ladybugs, spiders, toads and earthworms and to discourage unwanted ones from your garden. Companion plants include flowers, herbs and vegetables. Examples of plants that keep away insects are onions, mint, marigolds, thyme and garlic. Some examples of plants that attract insects are carrots, alfalfa and morning glory. Seek advice on companion planting from garden centre experts.

Pesticides & Precautions

Pesticide Disposal

Proper disposal of pesticides and their containers is very important for the protection of the environment. Pesticides should never be poured down the drain or into a storm sewer. Follow manufacturer's disposal instructions on the container label.

In Durham Region, full, partially empty and empty pesticide containers can be dropped off at any of the following locations free of charge:

Phone ahead to confirm hours of operation and to obtain any special disposal instructions.

Useful Resources

The following resources are available from the Region of Durham Works Department at no cost. For further information please call the Region of Durham Works Department at 905-668-7721.