1999 May – August: Bird deaths Collinsville (Qld). Pesticide: Fenthion

Bowen Independent. Wednesday 11 August 1999.

Council update on bird deaths by Jon Gibbons*

Bowen Shire Council has recently obtained results from the Qld. National Parks and Wildlife Service in relation to the bird kills in Collinsville and Scottville.

As reported in the BI previously 4 and 6 August, the chemical fenthion
was responsible.

The results show that the three bird specimens contained 1.9mg, 700mg and 3800mg per kg of fenthion in their stomach and intestine contents otherwise the birds were in good condition. Fenthion is a moderately toxic compound with trade names: Bay 29493, Baycid, Baytex, Dalf, DMTP, Enfex, Lebaycid, Mercaptophos, Prentox Fenthion 4E, Queletex, S1752, Spotton, Taladox and Tiguvon. Fenthion is available in dust, emulsified concentrate, liquid concentrate, spray concentrate ULV and wettable powder formulations. Fenthion is an organ-phosphate insecticide used to control sucking and biting pests. It is moderately toxic to animals and highly toxic to birds. Based on this high toxicity to birds, fenthion is used in various parts of the world for weaver bird control. Pest control operators have used it to control pigeons around public buildings. In animals and humans fenthion is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream via the digestive tract, lungs and skin. In water bodies it can kill fresh water animals such as mussels, plankton and fish. Acute symptoms of fenthion poisoning in birds include tearing of the eyes, foaming salivation, lack of movement, tremors, congestion in wind pipe, lack of coordination in walking and an abnormally rapid rate of breathing or difficult breathing. Also reported in the Bowen Independent were the recent bird deaths in South africa and Podor attributable to fenthion. More than 6 million birds were killed in these areas within weeks following the use of Queletox containing an active ingredient fenthion. While the use of Queletox in these cases had been directed at seed eating birds causing crop losses to farmers, many ohter non-target species including herons and cranes have died together with vultures and other raptor birds which have consumed dead birds. As can be seen from this information, fenthion can have a dramatic affect on bird populations. Council has released this information in the hope that public knowledge regarding the use of fenthion containing products is heightened in an effort to prevent more bird deaths. Users of agricultural chemicals are reminded to read labels thoroughly before usage and to discard empty chemical containers carefully. Councils Drummuster collection point is available for rinsed empty chemical containers. Enquiries may be directed to council health and environmental services section on 07 4786 0633. * Jon Gibbons is Bowen Shire Council Director of Health and Environmental Services.