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Endosulfan - Regulatory Action in New Zealand

19 December 2008

On December 15 2008, New Zealand’s Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) revoked the approvals for the insecticide endosulfan and prohibited its importation, manufacture and use in New Zealand.

Endosulfan is registered for use in Australia and is applied to a number of agricultural and horticultural crops for the control of a variety of insects and mites.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) notes the New Zealand decision with interest.

The APVMA concluded a review of endosulfan in 2005. This review was prompted by concerns about possible risks to the public from short and long-term exposure to endosulfan residues, occupational health and safety, trade and the environment.

As a consequence of the review many uses of endosulfan products were restricted and conditions imposed on their use (see endosulfan review page). Four products are currently registered for use in Australia.

Does the NZ decision mean that the APVMA should similarly deregister endosulfan in Australia?

Endosulfan is used differently in Australia than in New Zealand. In New Zealand, for example, users can use agricultural chemical products at rates higher than the approved rates (providing the MRL is complied with) stated on the label. This is not the case in most of Australia where any off-label use needs to be scientifically assessed before a product can be approved for use under a permit.

It was also used in different situations in New Zealand than in Australia. A major New Zealand use was for earthworm control in turf (a NZ-specific problem due to the nature of their soils, rainfall, worms and sporting calendar), leading to concerns about exposure of children and adults playing on treated lawns, as well as occupational health and safety concerns. Endosulfan is not approved for a similar use in Australia. Such differences in use can generate a higher real and perceived risk profile.

There are also regulatory differences between New Zealand and Australia. ERMA does not have the power to call-in scientific data or request that additional data be provided to help it inform a regulatory decision. It must rely on publicly-available information and studies available at the time of review. In Australia the APVMA has wider powers and can request that chemical companies provide it with scientific information from their data holdings and/or generate new data to fill information gaps identified through the course of a review. The database of studies available to the APVMA is therefore likely to be different and may be more extensive than that available to ERMA.

The APVMA’s current position is that endosulfan registrations in Australia remain appropriate given the scientific evidence and the controls that are in place. Endosulfan will therefore not be re-reviewed at this stage.

It should be noted that this position is evidence-based and may change if new studies emerge which clearly indicate that endosulfan poses risks that cannot be successfully managed.

Australian Government agencies will consider any new information to which ERMA may have had access when formulating the Australian position regarding the possible listing of endosulfan under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

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