Australia's chemical regulatory system is exposing people and the environment to risks that are ringing alarms elsewhere in the world, vet Mat Landos says.
Dr Landos was one of two dissenting voices on the taskforce into fish deaths and deformities in a Noosa River hatchery, the majority of which concluded that it was impossible to pin a chemical cause onto the problem.
"The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) proudly says that it conforms to an international standard, but this standard is demonstrably insufficient to protect against new threats that have been identified in terms of endocrine disrupting chemicals, and the tendency for mixtures to have additive effects and cause toxicity," Dr Landos said.
Denmark and Sweden have acted to limit use of the class of pesticides known as endocrine disruptors, which work through hormones that affects reproduction and metabolism.
Endocrine-distrupting chemicals include atrazine, endosulfan and the fungicide vinclozolin, and are also found in a range of plastics in everyday use.
The US Endocrine Society, which represents 14,000 medical endocrine specialists, released a 2009 scientific statement urging "the precautionary principle" be applied to use of the compounds.
"The evidence for adverse reproductive outcomes (infertility, cancers, malformations) from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals is strong, and there is mounting evidence for effects on other endocrine systems, including thyroid, neuroendocrine, obesity and metabolism, and insulin and glucose homeostasis," the Society said.
The US Cancer Panel has also weighed in, citing increasing evidence of links between cancers and chemicals.
"The behaviour of Europe toward these products is not some sort of scare campaign, or the role of activists, as some would have us believe," Dr Landos said.
"It's because they are finding massive harm. They are finding tight connections to cancer in humans. They are finding massive problems with hormone-based diseases in people—obseity, diabetes—being linked directly to exposures of agrichemicals."
"This is not trying to be alarmist. It's trying to take published scientific reality and turn it into good policy for public health."
"That's what Europe is doing, but at this time, there's really no sign of that happening in Australia."
"There is a rational response, and that is to invoke the precautionary principle. Just as 14,000 medical endocrinologists implored the US Congress to do."
For its part, the AVPMA says it is not aware of evidence to suggest that its assessment system is faulty.
“Australia can be proud of having a contemporary regulatory system that is well regarded by its international peers,” said Dr Les Davies, Principal Scientist - Pesticides, at the APVMA.
“The Australian system is closely aligned with that of other OECD countries. It uses the same frameworks and assessment processes to evaluate new pesticides, it provides expert advice to other countries and its assessments are accepted by countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom.”