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Restrictions on OP pesticide to lessen risk to workers and environment

NRA 99/12 28 September 1999

Following extensive public consultation, the National Registration Authority has restricted the use of the organophosphate (OP) pesticide, fenitrothion.

The NRA also has set a three-year period for users and industry to provide extra information needed to fill gaps in data on worker and environmental safety issues.

The changes will apply on 1 April 2000.

"The NRA has acted to reduce the risk of exposure to workers and potential damage to the environment and to fill essential data gaps," Chemical Review Manager, Dr Ron Eichner, said.

Fenitrothion is a broad-spectrum OP pesticide that has been registered for use in Australia for nearly 30 years. It is widely used to control plague locusts, protect stored cereal grains and grain storage equipment and structures and for control of winter pests in pasture.

It is being reviewed under the NRA's Existing Chemical Review Program, which specifically considered the impact of fenitrothion on public health, occupational health and safety, the environment and trade.

"At this stage in the review process, we've identified that the potential health risk to workers using fenitrothion is high and that the chemical is toxic to birds and to some aquatic invertebrates where there is runoff or drift from sprayed areas," Dr Eichner said.

"We needed to address concerns about worker and environmental safety associated with current use patterns of fenitrothion, so we have made changes to the label which impose new conditions on use."

The changes:

Restrict certain uses of fenitrothion;

Introduce buffer zones to protect water bodies from aerial and ground applications;

Minimise the amounts of chemicals to be handled by users by reducing application rates and frequency of use.

The Australian Plague Locusts Commission had already initiated action to reduce use rates of fenitrothion, and this had achieved considerable success already, Dr Eichner said.

To date the NRA's review also has identified that for some use patterns and agricultural practices, there isn't enough data available in Australia for the NRA to make a final decision on fenitrothion.

"Therefore we have given industry and users three years to provide the necessary data needed to fill our existing information gaps," Dr Eichner said. "Once this has occurred, we will revisit the use of fenitrothion."

The NRA's review follows the public release of the draft report on fenitrothion in February. The NRA received nine submissions and considered these as part of this review process.