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Why are endosulfan and carbendazim still registered in Australia?

Endosulfan Cancellations

On 11 October 2010 the APVMA cancelled all active constituent approvals for endosulfan. As a consequence, on 12 October 2010 the APVMA cancelled all endosulfan product registrations.

See the media release announcing the cancellation of endosulfan.

26 March 2010

Endosulfan and carbendazim are two agricultural chemicals that a number of people have claimed are so toxic they should not be used in Australia. The fact that endosulfan is not permitted in some countries overseas has been used to support this argument.

Both chemicals are permitted to be used in Australia because the APVMA is satisfied, on the available scientific evidence, that they can be safely used subject to the strict conditions the APVMA imposes. There is no evidence that either chemical is presenting any human health or environmental problem in Australia when used according to these strict conditions.

More detail

Agricultural chemicals are all toxic in some ways. They are, after all, designed to control plant, insect and fungal pests. The key issue that governments face is how to gain their benefits without them impacting on people and the environment. Governments traditionally deal with this problem by developing legislation that defines how chemicals are to be evaluated and managed. Of course, each country does this in different ways. A common path is to take what is called a risk management approach. This involves considering the risks a chemical might present in terms of the way it is proposed to be used. If the toxicity of chemical is low and it is proposed to be used in a limited way, its risks can be fairly easily managed. On the other hand, if its toxicity is high and the proposed use involves widespread application then the risks are more difficult to manage.

While some countries may make an upfront decision not to try to manage chemicals that present particular hazards, the more common approach is to actively seek to reduce risks to manageable levels by imposing restrictions that limit exposure to the chemical.

Endosulfan is a chemical that is quite toxic if ingested or absorbed through the skin. Some countries have decided not to permit it. This is either because their legislation will not allow such a chemical or more typically because they are not able, given their regulatory infrastructure, to manage the risks it may present. The Australian legislation requires the APVMA to seek to manage the risks before considering not to permit it.

Australia has a very strong regulatory system. The APVMA has been able to impose a wide range of controls that have restricted its use to the point where the risks it presents are well managed. As a result, endosulfan is little used in Australia. Under the current level of restrictions there is no evidence that it is presenting any human health or environmental problems in Australia when used according to these strict conditions.

Carbendazim has a different risk profile. Nearly every country in the world allows its use. Its risks are well understood and carefully managed in Australia. Again, there is no evidence that it is presenting any human health or environmental problems in Australia when used according to the strict conditions that apply to its use.

The APVMA, however, makes science based decisions. Should new evidence emerge that suggests that either chemical might present a new risk, the APVMA would reconsider its regulatory stance.

Further information

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Last updated on 12 October, 2010