Chems leave us exposed

18 Jun, 2011 02:00 AM

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.”

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18/06/2011 9:23:06 PM

Two dissenters on a taskforce of 27!! From the Final Report: "It has been argued that this case presents a good argument for the use of the precautionary principle to ban or restrict specific agricultural chemical use until more complete answers are known. However, application of the precautionary principle to deregister a highly useful chemical is premature and not supported by the evidence collected. To the contrary there is data that questions the hypothesis put forward that agricultural chemicals are the primary cause."
19/06/2011 7:20:48 PM

You often hear the moaning minnies out there saying that this or that should be banned because they have banned it in England, but in England, villages are 3 to 4 kms apart, whereas here its more likely to be 3 to 4 kms between neighbours, so I think the Europeans are probably justified in taking a more precautionary approach to chemicals. We can be a little more relaxed because its less likely that we will muck up someones washing or accidentaly spray their cat.
Urban Sam
20/06/2011 4:54:22 AM

If an increasingly precocious public didnt demand that fruit and vegetables were completely blemish free, farmers woudn't need to use half the chemicals they do.
20/06/2011 7:28:41 AM

Once again people missing the point. There is a massive issue with the use of chemicals in the world today and there is absolutely no doubt that cancer and other related illnesses are majorly on the rise. It is the Ostrich's above that cant think beyond tomorrow sadly. Have a watch of the documentary on "The World according to Monsanto" on you tube and see whether we should be concerned about what the chemical companies are trying to hide. Wake up and see beyond your nose.
20/06/2011 8:12:24 AM

Funny how there never seems to be any mention of the high volumes of household chemicals in the noosa river. Just blame the poor farmer who is an easy target. I'll bet he doesn't flush his leftovers down the sink.
20/06/2011 11:15:30 AM

@themule - What would you have farmers do? Not use chemicals and leave half the planet to starve? Go organic because its safer? Why don't you argue that with the families of those that died from e.coli in Eurpope over the last month. Your simplistic and ill informed parroting of green propaganda is just irresponsible.
20/06/2011 8:21:15 PM

What regulatory system? It's a joke. It is easier to get chemical listed than it is to get it removed. Meanwhile some chemicals are seriously harming our population. A friend of mine use to play golf with an Oncologist that told him that they can tell what part of the country a cancer patient comes from by the form of cancer they have. Different agricultural areas, different chemicals, different cancer.
Ian Mott
21/06/2011 10:12:50 AM

A formal investigation by the relevant experts found that "the evidence collected does not establish with ANY DEGREE OF CERTAINTY (my emphasis) that chemicals from the macadamia farm were the single or primary causal agent for the reported events at the hatchery”. That is the story. But Fairfax has completely ignored the real story and given repeat exposure to the opinions of one of two dissenters out of 27 experts. If Landos' assessment of the facts was incapable of swaying the 25 other experts involved in the investigation then why has Matt Cawood decided that he knows better?


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