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Using Chemicals Safely - Frequently Asked Questions

How do I check the current registration status of a chemical product?

Your supplier can check the registration status of chemicals or you can access the information now by selecting searching PUBCRIS (a database of all registered agricultural and veterinary products in Australia).

How do I know if a product has been registered?

The APVMA (known before March 2003 as the NRA) allocates a unique registration number which is printed on the bottom of the product label. The APVMA uses this approval number to verify the registration status of products. The words "NRA Approval No." always appears in front of the number. The last four digits tell you when the product was last assessed by the APVMA.

However, some older chemical products may not have an NRA number. In this case, ask your supplier to check that the product you want is registered.

See Understanding Pesticide Chemical Labels for a breakdown of the elements on a farm chemical label.

Is it OK for me to buy farm chemicals over the internet?

You should be aware of the potential risks involved in ordering farm chemicals over the internet. It is illegal to import, possess or use unregistered chemical products in Australia. So, before you order a farm chemical product over the internet, check that the product you want is registered for use in Australia. Then you will be certain that your purchase is legal, and you won't attract the interest of the APVMA, Australian Customs or the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). By going to the beginning of our home page, you can enter PUBCRIS to check the registration of your chemical product or under PUBLICATIONS you will find the APVMA's Compliance fact sheet (PDF, 762kb).

I've been offered some farm chemicals at a good price but they are not registered? What should I do?

Let the APVMA know. It's very important that chemical products be registered by the APVMA. Then you know that what you buy is tested, approved and safe, and does the job you want. You can report unregistered products or fax your concerns to the Pesticides Contact Officer on 02 6210 4776 and we will send you a form to fill in.

Is it illegal to use a farm chemical for a purpose other than what it is registered for?

As a general rule, yes. The label is a legally binding document and anyone who uses a product for purposes other that what is on the label is breaking the law. However there are exceptions to this. See the next question.

Can I use a farm chemical for a purpose other than that shown on the label?

Only in special circumstances and after applying for a special permit from the APVMA. The APVMA understands that there may be times when you need to use a farm chemical in a different way from what is listed on the label. Permits are available for off-label uses in minor use and emergency situations and let you legally use the farm chemical for these purposes.

How do I apply for a permit?

Permits are issued by the APVMA and anyone can apply. If you know that a number of farmers need a certain chemical for a minor use, get your relevant grower organisation to apply for the permit on behalf of everyone. Talk to an APVMA officer or someone in your State agricultural department if you want more information.

For Veterinary permits please call 6210 4726
For Agricultural permits please call 6210 4748

See the APVMA's fact sheet on permits (PDF, 719kb).

There's also an organisation called Crop Protection Approvals (CPA) that manages minor use needs for vegetable industry grower organisations and their members. You can contact CPA on Tel 03 8371 0001 or fax 03 9375 7552. It's planned that this service will be extended to other industries shortly.

I know that a certain product is registered for a particular use in (state/territory). Can I use it for a similar purpose in another State?

You need to check with either your supplier or the APVMA contact officers as conditions of use can differ between each State and Territory. However, if the label does not show the use for your State or indicates suitability in "all States", then use may be contrary to State laws. In these instances, it may be necessary to check with your State Department of Agriculture before using the product.

What does the APVMA do?

The APVMA operates a national scheme (the National Registration Scheme - NRS) that evaluates and registers farm chemical products before they can be sold.

Chemicals must be assessed to ensure they will control pest and disease and are safe to people and the environment when used as directed.

The APVMA's specific role within the Scheme is to assess the safety and performance of products, determine whether their use is likely to affect trade, and to regulate the supply of farm chemical products onto the market by approving product labels and setting out conditions of use.

The APVMA works in cooperation with the States, Territories and other Commonwealth agencies. States and Territories are responsible for regulating chemical use including aerial spraying and licensing pest controllers.

What about making sure people comply with the law?

The APVMA conducts surveillance of the marketplace to:

check for unregistered or out of date products, unapproved or defaced labels or products subject to recall notices;
monitor advertising and promotions to ensure that false claims are not made; and
control supply of restricted farm chemical products.

What protective clothing should I wear to protect myself?

Always follow ALL the instructions on the label. This will give you directions on what to wear to ensure maximum safety for yourself and your workers.

Where do I find information about storing and disposing of a chemical?

On the label.

Where can I get additional information about chemical safety?

You can obtain a "material safety data sheet" (MSDS) from your supplier when you purchase products. Suppliers are required to have these sheets available. If they are not available you should obtain a copy from the product manufacturer and also report it to the OH&S authority in your State or Territory.

My dog has swallowed a (type) of bait. What do I need to do?

Take your animal immediately to the vet. Tell your vet what is on the chemical label or preferably take the product container with you.

I have given an animal a veterinary chemical product and it has suffered an adverse reaction. Should I report this?

Definitely. Let the APVMA, your chemical supplier and the chemical manufacturer know.

The APVMA has Adverse Experience Reporting Programs for agricultural and veterinary products. These provide a national mechanism for collating, analysing and reporting adverse experiences with a view to developing better use practices and preventing avoidable side effects.