Jean Boulet, Minister of Labor and Social Solidarity of Quebec, announced that Parkinson’s caused by pesticides will be included in the list of occupational diseases, within the framework of the reforms to the Occupational Health and Safety Act of this Canadian province. Boulet pointed out that this initiative “will promote better access to the compensation system” and that it was necessary to “reflect the evolution in the world of work, where prevention must play a central role.”
Following France’s example
In this way, Quebec will follow in the footsteps of France. In May 2012, a decree came into force in the European country that included Parkinson’s in the group of occupational diseases and established a link between this neurodegenerative disease and the use of pesticides. Changes in Québec regulation are directly inspired by the French.
Victims must show that they were in contact with these products for at least ten years; also the diagnosis of the disease should not exceed seven years after exposure. Farmers, agronomists, gardeners and other related professions will be able to obtain compensation from the Commission for standards, equity, health and safety at work (CNESST for its acronym in French).
The reforms to the Quebec Labor Health and Safety Law were unanimously approved in October by the members of the National Assembly, in order to update the regulations in force since 1985. However, Parkinson’s disease was not initially considered in this bill.
Reality of farm workers
Various organizations testified before a parliamentary commission to request the inclusion of this and other diseases on the list. In its intervention, the Union of Agricultural Producers of Quebec (UPA) deplored that the reality of farm workers was not taken into account in the October reforms, mainly regarding health problems related to pesticides.
Minister Boulet’s idea was for a scientific committee to analyze this request. However, the opposition stressed that there are already dozens of studies on the subject, so Boulet made this long-awaited decision.
Very favorable reception
Romain Rigal is director of services for Parkinson’s Quebec, an organization for research, support and information on this disease. “We received the news very favorably. We have been working for two years to include Parkinson’s disease on the list. We are happy that Minister Boulet has recognized the weight of scientific proof; also that it has shown sensitivity to the suffering of people affected by their exposure to pesticides and that they had to fight a very long administrative battle,” said Rigal.
The UPA represents some 41,000 farmers in the province. However, two thirds of its members are not listed on the CNESST; a necessary requirement to claim compensation. “The UPA should encourage the CNESST to offer lower prices so that all farmers have access to this advance,” says Rigal.
A first step
“Minister Boulet has taken a first step with the inclusion of Parkinson’s on the list. We hope that this allows the recognition of other occupational diseases, such as lymphoma and myeloma, due to contact with these toxic products”, Rigal adds.
A request from the UPA to the Québec government is the creation of a special fund for pesticide victims, both for Parkinson’s disease and for other neurodegenerative diseases.