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APVMA Releases Findings on Wool Residue Risks

28 April 2006

ref: mr06/04

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the independent national regulator of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, has today released its preliminary findings of a review into a group of chemicals collectively known as sheep ectoparasiticides that are used to treat external parasites of sheep.

Martin Holmes, Program Manager Veterinary Medicines, said that the APVMA proposes to find that the risks associated with chemical residues in wool can generally be reduced by making some changes to product labels and use of the products by wool growers.

“The review was prompted by three main concerns: concern about the health of rural workers exposed to chemical residues on wool; concern about potential environmental impacts of the residues when they are released as effluent from wool scour plants; and, concern that residues on wool may present trade concerns in the future, especially with anticipated new environmental standards in the European Union from October 2007”.

“In our preliminary review findings report, we propose that human health risks can be reduced by changing product labels to include ‘sheep rehandling intervals’ – the interval between application of the chemical and when sheep can be safely rehandled without the need for protective equipment”, Mr Holmes said.

“We also propose that risks to the Australian environment can be managed by the application of a ‘wool harvesting interval’ which defines a minimum interval from when the chemical is applied and when the sheep can be shorn”.

“In terms of trade risk, we propose that changes to the label instructions of sheep ectoparasiticide products are needed to provide clear warning of expected changes in European Union environmental requirements”.

“We believe that these proposed findings will not only enable continued access to effective chemicals for the wool industry but will protect human health, the Australian environment and will help to protect Australia’s international trade”, Mr Holmes said.

“However, the review identifies that the wool industry itself needs to take responsibility for managing the trade risk”.

The sheep ectoparasiticides review affects 65 products currently registered for use on sheep to treat lice and blowfly strike, including products that contain the widely used organophosphate, diazinon.

“We are seeking public comment on the preliminary review findings. Interested members of the public have until 31 October 2006 to provide us with their views,” Mr Holmes said.

The report and backgrounder are available electronically.

Further information about the diazinon review is available.

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