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New Regulatory Measures to Reduce Exposure to the Insecticide - Chlorpyrifos

NRA 00/10 28 September 2000

The range of products available for domestic use has been reduced and some of the use conditions tightened for the insecticide, chlorpyrifos, following an extensive review of the chemical by the National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (NRA) under its Existing Chemical Review Program.

Chairman of the NRA Board, Dr John Keniry, said that the regulatory changes will reduce the potential for public exposure to chlorpyrifos, providing even greater margins for public safety.

'Ensuring that Australia's high standards of public health, environment and worker safety were not compromised was a fundamental objective in guiding the NRA Board's decisions governing the future use of chlorpyrifos.' Dr Keniry said.

'The most significant changes involve reducing the strengths of chlorpyrifos products commercially available to the householder and ensuring that product labels clearly preclude indoor broadcast spraying treatments of surfaces such as floors and walls.' Dr Keniry said.

Some tighter use conditions and warnings have also been introduced as precautionary measures to further reduce worker exposure and risk and to protect against potential environmental damage that could have arisen from the irresponsible use of chlorpyrifos, especially as a termite treatment.

'We have been able to provide increased margins for public safety while also ensuring the continued availability of a most important chemical tool for pest control.' Dr Keniry said.

'The nature of the NRA review's findings and the resulting regulatory decisions are in keeping with the approaches recently adopted by both the World Health Organisation and the United Kingdom's pesticide regulator.'

'The regulatory approach that the NRA is taking will also achieve the same health and safety outcomes that the United States is seeking following its recent review of chlorpyrifos but it employs some different measures to do this.' Dr Keniry said.

'The nearly three year review process was exhaustive, applying the highest scientific standards of analysis.'

'The NRA Board is confident that with the new arrangements in place any risk posed by chlorpyrifos is well within acceptable bounds. However the review process is never really over. If new scientific information comes to light that calls these decisions into question then we will instigate a new review without hesitation.' The NRA chairman said.

(The complete report of the ECRP review of chlorpyrifos can be found on the NRA website).

Media contact: Greg Hooper on 02 6271 6319 or Dennis O'Leary on 02 6272 3797

Chlorpyrifos - Backgrounder

  • Chlorpyrifos is a broad spectrum organophosphate insecticide. It is one of the most commonly used insecticides in Australia and is applied in agriculture (mainly horticulture), by the householder, both indoors and in the garden and in the prevention and treatment of termites. It has been used for more than 30 years.

  • It was included for review in the NRA's Existing Chemical Review Program because of its known toxic potential.

  • The review was rigorous and exhaustive. It took three years, drew submissions from industry, community organisations, individuals and scientific bodies, saw the collection of scientific data from Australian and international sources and involved scientific analysis of the highest standard.

  • The review of Chlorpyrifos focused on the public health, occupational health and safety and environmental implications of the chemical's use. The major findings were:

    • the detection of an extremely low incidence of the chemical in the average Australian diet at only 3% (with the highest exposed group) of the Australian standard - an Acceptable Daily Intake figure which is very conservative

    • recognition that many of the packaged products available for household use were at concentrations that were well above the NRA guidelines that set the safety standard

    • the realisation that the currently available data on residue levels in some commodities used to establish the Maximum Residue Levels is inadequate.

  • The key decisions made by the NRA Board as a result of the review are for:

  • liquid formulations of the chemical sold for domestic use to be restricted to a concentration of 50grams of Chlorpyrifos per litre. Previously much stronger concentrations had been used.

  • indoor broadcast applications involving spraying surface areas such as floors and walls to no longer be permitted

  • the label instructions concerning the times and conditions governing worker re-entry and re-occupation of treated areas to be strengthened

  • product labels to be required to contain clear warnings on use practices that will avoid the potential for environmental harm.

  • The review findings and decisions will be considered as interim until further data has been collected on residue levels in commodities to provide the basis for the re-establishment of permanent Maximum Residue Levels for individual crops.

  • The findings of the NRA review and the conditions for the future use of Chlorpyrifos are in line with those of the World Health Organisation and Great Britain who reviewed the chemical recently.

  • The regulatory approach that the NRA is taking is intended to achieve the same health and safety outcomes that the United States is seeking through its recently introduced restrictions on the use of the chemical.

Further Information

Further information concerning the ECRP review of chlorpyrifos is contained within the review interim report. This is published in three volumes. The complete report can be found on the APVMA website.