12 May 2009
The following article from The Age newspaper discusses how some highly questionable and toxic pesticides being banned in other countries are still allowed freely in Ausralia.
Australia slow to ban toxic products
- Kelly Burke
- May 12, 2009
A LIST of highly toxic chemicals about to be deregistered or already banned in the European Union remain widely available in Australia and can be found in everything from pets’ flea control collars to head-lice treatments for children.
An analysis of pesticide use in everyday products, conducted by the consumer advocate group Choice, found that a wide range of household surface sprays,cockroach baits, termite and ant treatments, mosquito deterrents, flea shampoos and pet accessories were still being manufactured here with eight chemicals it says are no longer registered in Europe.
One neurotoxin, chlorpyrifos, which is used as a household insect killer, has also been banned in the United States for almost a decade because of its suspected link to childhood leukaemia and effects on the reproductive and immune systems.
Another pesticide, permethrin, is still commonly found in commercial head-lice shampoos, lotions and sprays. The chemical is to be phased out in Europe from October, but it was only recently added to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s list of chemicals scheduled for review, and it has been marked by the statutory body as a low priority.
Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said the Government needed to place the burden of proof on manufacturers and importers that a chemical was
safe, rather than simply giving them the benefit of the doubt.
But Simon Cubit, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s spokesman, said Choice’s data was flawed and that some uses of chlorpyrifos and pyriproxyfen — another chemical named and used in cat flea collars — were still permitted by the EU.
Treatments to kill head lice were registered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, not the APVMA, Dr Cubit said, with permethrin found to “have a low overall toxicity, and a low incidence of adverse events” by the TGA in 2003.
An Auditor-General’s productivity report on the APVMA completed in 2007 found that the average time taken to complete a review was becoming increasingly longer, with most taking more than five years and one taking more than 14 years to complete.
The authority’s tardiness posed particular concern to the auditor because the risks associated with ongoing use of a chemical remained while it underwent a review, the report noted, and no efforts were made to inform the public of the chemical’s status.