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Organophosate Report

NRA 99/10 August 1999

AUSTRALIAN EXPERTS TO REVIEW A UK ORGANOPHOSPHATE PESTICIDES REPORT

The National Registration Authority (NRA) has established an expert group to review the findings of a recent United Kingdom report on the effects of organophosphate (OP) pesticide in sheep farmers and dippers.

"The United Kingdom report has raised a number of complex issues which are of great interest to the NRA," Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Greg Hooper said.

The UK report identifies eight OPs - propetamphos, diazinon, chlorfenvinphos, carbophenothion, coumaphos, chorpyrifos, bromophos and iodofenphos.

The NRA cancelled the registration for bromophos in 1988 and iodofenphos and carbophenothion in 1990. Chorpyrifos is not used on sheep in Australia and the use of coumaphos on livestock ceased in 1997.

"Diazinon, chlorfenvinphos and dichlorvos are currently under review by the NRA's Existing Chemical Review Program, so the UK report is timely and will be of great benefit to this process," Mr Hooper said.

In many respects, Australia leads the world in reviewing the use of OP pesticides as the NRA has been aware of health and safety concerns relating to the use of OP pesticides for a number of years.

Mr Hooper said: "Australia is unique and it is often all too easy to translate what happens elsewhere in the world into our own environment. However, when you are dealing with issues of health and safety, we must be not only proactive but also vigilant.

"We must make sure that everyone understands the reasons why chemicals must be used according to the registered label and what the risks are if they don't.

"It is important, therefore, that the UK report be viewed in the Australian context and regulatory authorities develop an over-arching view on all these chemicals.

"I'm sure that the UK will find our review of interest so our expert group will make sure that the outcomes are transmitted back to them."

The expert group is to be headed by Professor Jock McLean, former Pro Vice-Chancellor (responsible for Science, Engineering and Design) at Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology. The group will include representatives from other key organisations with an interest in these chemicals - farmers, farm workers, industry, regulatory authorities and occupational health and safety experts.

For further information, please contact Dr Ron Eichner, Manager Chemical Review, Tel 02 6272 5248

BACKGROUNDER

Organophosphates a focus of the NRA's chemical review program

A large number of organophosphates (OP) have been candidate chemicals on the NRA's Existing Chemical Review Program since the program's inception in 1994.

The NRA's open and transparent review process, which involves full public participation in nominating chemicals, identified this large group of chemicals for priority assessment.

In total, the NRA either has reviewed or is currently reviewing 13 different OPs found in many chemical products.

Five OP chemicals have been reviewed of which three have had their registration cancelled and two have had their registration severely restricted. Those cancelled were demetion-S-methyl, azinphos ethyl and parathion-ethyl.

Mevinphos and parathion methyl have had their uses severely restricted, with further review of these chemicals pending.

The NRA will make a decision on fenitrothion this month, while the draft review of monocrotophos is currently out for public consultation and could be cancelled if the NRA receives no commitment to generate the additional required studies.

Four others (dichlorvos, chlorfenvinphos, chlorpyrifos, and diazinon) are nearing the public consultation phase which will occur later this year. It is anticipated that significant regulatory action will be required.

Azinphos-methyl and fenthion are currently being reviewed by the NRA.

Australia's reviews are compatible with OECD country standards, and the NRA's review program is at world's best practice with a number of NRA reviews having been used overseas including those for OPs.

In the review and registration of chemical products, the NRA uses very conservative health standards to protect public health and occupational health and safety. The NRA only permits use of pesticides where it is safe to do so, when used according to approved label directions.

The NRA's review program is dynamic and two-way. The NRA actively seeks information and its legislation also requires registrants to advise the NRA of any adverse experiences as part of the review process.

Reviews are based upon a rigorous independent scientific assessment of relevant studies/facts. These reviews are fully transparent and include extensive consultation with all interested parties.

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