APVMA bans pesticide endosulfan

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 14th October 2010

Macadamia plantationThe Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) announced this week that it has cancelled the registration of the insecticide endosulfan.

Endosulfan was one of two chemicals implicated in March in a report by 60 Minutes on fish deformities at the Sunland Fish Hatchery and the Noosa River area, with drift-spraying of the chemicals allegedly crossing fences from a neighbouring macadamia plantation.

APVMA said the decision to deregister endosulfan “follows a recent assessment of new information by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC) that the prolonged use of endosulfan is likely to lead to adverse environmental effects via spray drift and run-off,” and that “a full risk assessment conducted by DSEWPC concluded that these long term risks could not be mitigated through restrictions on use or variations to label instructions.”

APVMA sets maximum residue limits for chemicals remaining on produce sold to the consumer, with a variety of testing mechanisms in place to police limits.

However, recent studies in New Zealand by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) found traces of the highly toxic chemical in samples of cucumbers and bok choi. Endosulfan was banned from use in New Zealand last January.

In addition to being highly toxic, endosulfan has been shown to build up in plants and animals, and is capable of travelling long distances in the atmosphere.

Agricultural products containing endosulfan are no longer registered in Australia, effective immediately. The three current approvals for endosulfan have also been cancelled, and the five products containing the chemical will be phased out over the next two years.

APVMA said the slow phase-out is justified by the relatively limited amounts of endosulfan in use, and was in line with phase-out periods imposed by other national regulators who have similarly taken recent action against endosulfan.

APVMA also stated that risks to human health were not a factor in the APVMA decision.

“While recent and emerging toxicological data was assessed by the Office of Chemical Safety and Environmental Health, it has been determined that the current regulatory regime has been effective in managing these risks,” said a release from the body.

“Some of the new environmental data on which the APVMA’s decision is based emerged following the recent nomination of endosulfan to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). This nomination focussed more attention on endosulfan and produced a large volume of new information on its environmental fate and effects.”

However, when the United States banned endosulfan in July, it cited the possibility of “unaccceptable neurological and reproductive risks to farmworkers” in its rationale for the decision.