1997 March: OP Pesticide Spill Morwell

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Tough New Controls On Way For Pesticide Used To Kill Pets

Sydney Morning Herald Monday April 14, 1997

By BOB BEALE Science and Environment Editor

Tough new national controls are likely to be placed on a potentially deadly horticultural pesticide linked to the widespread deliberate poisoning of domestic animals and wildlife.

The controls, which Canberra sources say will be announced soon, follow an incident last month in which 100 litres of the pesticide spilled into a shopping centre when a drum fell from a truck in Morwell, Victoria.

A few drops taken orally can kill an adult human and it acts so quickly that veterinarians often cannot save animals poisoned by it. It is used legally in horticulture to kill insect pests. The Australian Veterinary Association’s Sydney branch president, Dr Kersti Seksel, says the organophosphate insecticide is an acutely toxic member of the nerve gas family and was withdrawn from sale voluntarily in the United States in 1994.

In the AVA’s newsletter, Dr Seksel warns that the pesticide is still available in Australia and appears to be commonly and illegally used to kill pets and wild birds, especially those that affect crops.

“It is sold in NSW without any record of its sale being kept,” Dr Seksel says. “A 500 ml bottle, costing around $65, contains enough compound to kill 2,000 adult humans, the lethal oral dose being just 0.25 ml.

“It is clearly a quick and cost-effective way for pet-haters, for whatever reason, to take matters into their own hands and get rid of perceived animal ‘problems’.” Dr Seksel says vets have expressed concern over the continuing availability of the pesticide, after an investigation revealed a dog belonging to a Sydney veterinary couple died after taking a bait laced with it.

More baits containing the poison were later dropped in the garden of the home and on the footpath where they could have been picked up by dogs, cats, birds and even children.

One of the most extensive reviews undertaken in Australia on an agricultural or veterinary chemical is being finalised by the National Registration Authority after a year-long process of consultation and scientific reviews of more than 200 research papers.

The review is expected to recommend tighter controls on the sale, distribution, occupational handling and registration of users of the pesticide, but to stop short of recommending a national ban.