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revised October 01, 2013

Pest and Pesticides Q&A


What is a pest?


Pests are living creatures that are found where they’re not wanted or cause damage to crops, humans, or other animals.

The most common pests are:

  • insects
  • mice and other animals
  • weeds
  • fungi
  • micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses

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What is a pesticide?


A pesticide is any substance (or a mixture of substances) used to prevent, destroy, repel, or diminish any pest. The word ‘pesticide’ includes:
  • algicides
  • fumigants
  • fungicides
  • herbicides
  • microbiocides
  • rodenticides, and
  • wood preservatives

Active ingredients and formulants

Pesticides contain ‘active’ ingredients (the chemicals used to kill) and formulants.

Formulants are considered ‘trade secrets.’ In some cases they can be even more toxic than ‘active’ chemicals, even though most of us don’t even know they exist. All pesticide products that are registered for use in Canada have a Pest Control Products Act registration number on the label.

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Are pesticides tested?

Since they’re designed to kill pests, most pesticides pose some risk of harm to humans, animals, and the environment. But at the same time, pesticides are useful to society because they keep disease-causing pests (such as mosquitoes) under control.

Pesticides sold, imported into, or used in Canada are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act and its set of rules.

A pesticide must be tested thoroughly before it can be registered and sold in Canada.

This testing makes sure that the pesticide not only works, but also won’t pose a health risk to humans or poison the environment.

In Canada, a pesticide’s value is determined by how effective it is and whether it does what it says it does. Some older pesticides have not been tested as thoroughly as newer pesticides and are being re-evaluated.

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What are the risks and benefits of pesticides?

Since they’re designed to kill, most pesticides post some risk of harm to humans, animals, and the environment. But at the same time, pesticides are useful to society because they keep disease-causing pests (such as mosquitoes) under control.

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Are some pesticides less toxic than others?

Yes. Biopesticides — such as pheromones and microbial pesticides — are made from natural materials such as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. (For example, canola oil and baking soda are considered biopesticides and can be used to repel or kill pests.)

Biopesticides are becoming more popular because:

  • They generally affect only the target pest and other closely-related organisms.
  • They’re often effective in very small quantities.
  • They generally break down quickly.

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What does “cosmetic/non-essential” pesticide use mean?

Using pesticides to keep lawns free of pests can be considered “cosmetic” or “non-essential”.

The Province of Ontario has passed the Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act, 2008 which bans the use of 250 pesticide products and over 80 pesticide ingredients. The Province considers these products non-essential for cosmetic use purposes on lawns, vegetable and ornamental gardens, patios, driveways, cemeteries, and in parks and school yards.

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Revised: October 01, 2013

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