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U.S. EPA decision on endosulfan

10 June 2010

The APVMA notes the decision taken yesterday by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (external site) to seek a voluntary phase out of the use of the insecticide endosulfan in that country.

While based on legislative provisions and use patterns in the United States, the decision is an important one given current international discussions about the use of endosulfan. The APVMA is liaising with the EPA to obtain more detailed information about its decision.

The EPA based its decision on risks to farm workers applying the agricultural chemical and to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.

The APVMA is not aware of any current evidence suggesting a similar occupational health and safety risk to Australian farm workers. Tight controls placed on endosulfan in Australia in 2005 addressed this risk. Recent advice from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing has confirmed that these controls adequately protect human health.

Some continuing environmental risks outside Australia, however, are acknowledged. These relate to those particular properties of endosulfan that have found small but measurable quantities of the chemical in the body fat of arctic species.

The APVMA has sought advice on this matter from the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The Department has confirmed these risks exist and will soon provide advice to the APVMA whether it believes they trigger legislation that might enable the APVMA to take action on endosulfan in Australia.

Neither the APVMA nor the EPA has identified any risks to human health through dietary exposure. Similarly, there are no concerns about household exposure as endosulfan is not approved for household use in either country.

See further information on the current registration status of endosulfan in Australia.

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