An environmental testing facility has found pesticides that are expected to dissipate in a matter of days persisting in Calgary’s soil and air for months after lawn and garden season has ended.

Paracel laboratories will present its findings at the Canadian Chemistry Conference in Ottawa on Monday.  Its month-long projects are small, but consistent with a benchmark year-long study by the Alberta Research Council. 

In Calgary soil, Paracel found the pesticides 2,4D and Dicamba. Both are used to control weeds by the City of Calgary, golf courses and lawn care companies.  The amount of Dicamba exceeded provincially regulated safe levels.

In the air, the scientists found 2,4D, as well as Atrazine, which is an herbicide used by farmers. These levels weren’t outside what the government allows, however Stephanie Hoeppner says the fact that they’re in the ambient air is alarming.

“According to regulatory guidelines, they passed the criteria. However from our screen we can show there is a potential endocrine disrupting effect,” Hoeppner says.

“Endocrine Disrupting Effect” is the scientific way of describing the way chemicals mess up our hormones.  They’re also a big part of Dr. Lee Jackson’s work.  Dr. Jackson runs ACWA, Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets. The project is a partnership between the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary.  He studies wastewater, and his team has been looking at contaminants like 2,4D in our river water.

“2,4 D is supposed to have a half-life in the order of two weeks,” he says, “and the last application of 2,4D would be the previous fall. and yet in April, we find it.”

The city says there is no 2,4D in treated drinking water. It checks for this pesticide and dozens of other contaminants, every month.  However, the potential risks to human health from pesticides in our environment are enough for the Canadian Cancer Society to recommend banning them for cosmetic purposes.

That’s also something Robin McLeod with Coalition for a Healthy Calgary has been lobbying for. She hopes Paracel’s findings will spark that discussion with Calgary politicians once again.

“In reality,” McLeod says, “we want to have healthy people, and not expose them to chemicals that are dangerous.”