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New U.S. EPA Review of Atrazine

9 October 2009

The APVMA is aware that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) is launching a comprehensive re-investigation of the health impacts of the herbicide atrazine. Atrazine is widely used on major crops in the USA, Australia and some 60 other countries.

The APVMA has been in contact with the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) within the US EPA and has been advised of its timetable for reviewing various aspects of the available data on atrazine. Detailed information on this review (external site) was publicly announced on October 8, 2009.

This review follows shortly after their extensive consideration of atrazine and reflects a political decision by the new US administration to re-visit a number of decisions made during the former administration.

Australia has recently completed a comprehensive atrazine review.

In addition to this comprehensive review, the APVMA also decided to re-examine the more recent studies on atrazine.  This project commenced in mid-2008 when the APVMA commissioned the Office of Chemical Safety and Environmental Health (OCSEH) (in the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing) to consider new research on the biochemical actions of atrazine published in the scientific literature over the last few years.  A key outcome of the OCSEH consideration will be to advise the APVMA whether any of these effects are relevant to the current human health risk assessment.

A draft report has been received from OCSEH and will be peer-reviewed by an external scientific expert prior to it being published on the APVMA website.

The APVMA will share this assessment with the US EPA as part of ongoing liaison between the agencies on issues related to pesticides regulation.

The APVMA notes that a detailed 2007 assessment of atrazine by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recently been published as part of Pesticide Residues in Food 2007 (external site). This assessment concluded that the existing database on atrazine is adequate to characterise the potential hazards of atrazine to human health. It also found that health-related exposure values can be established which are protective for the consequences of neuroendocrine and other adverse effects caused by prolonged exposure to atrazine and its metabolites.

The APVMA plans to liaise with the US EPA as it conducts its further re-consideration and, if new information comes to light, will consider whether further regulatory action is warranted in Australia.

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