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Australian Update on Endosulfan Regulation

22 April 2009

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. Four products are currently registered for use in Australia.

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).

In an earlier item published on its website on 19 December 2008, the APVMA advised that endosulfan is used differently in Australia than in New Zealand. In New Zealand, for example, users were able to 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.

The APVMA’s current position is that endosulfan registrations in Australia remain appropriate given the scientific evidence and the controls that are in place.  However, this position is evidence-based and may change if new studies emerge which clearly indicate that endosulfan poses risks that cannot be successfully managed.

The APVMA has retrieved several new studies which ERMA referenced, and has requested its advisory agencies to assess these studies. The Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC) is looking at several studies which contain information on endosulfan levels in Arctic regions and in Antarctic biota. The Office of Chemical Safety and Environmental Health (OCSEH) within the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) has been asked to look at a new developmental neurotoxicity study in rats, as well as the results of some air monitoring studies in the USA, conducted by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA).
In addition both these advisory agencies have been asked to consider summary information prepared for the international Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee which is considering the proposal for endosulfan to be listed in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) for global restriction or elimination. The APVMA has asked the agencies to complete their reports before the end of June 2009 and will publish the outcome of the advice received.

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