2016 January: Spray Drift Closeburn Qld. Pesticide: Aminopyralid, Fluroxypur

Radio National: The Law Report 9/2/16

A neighbour’s pesticide blew onto a Queensland woman’s property, and she ended up in hospital for a short time.

What are the regulations and who do you call when chemical spray drift affects you?


Resident demands safety from chemicals

A Closeburn resident wants to see laws enacted to ensure people have their rights protected when it comes to the air they breathe.

Denise Ravenscroft was hospitalised last month after inadvertently inhaling weedkiller that was being sprayed on her neighbour’s property.

Mrs Ravenscroft, who has lived on her property for about 30 years, began smelling a “serious, strong chemical smell”.

She discovered contractors spraying a herbicide weedkiller, which she later found out to be called ‘Hotshot’, on the boundary of the properties.

“I saw someone spraying with a fire fighting hose. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole entire life,” Mrs Ravenscroft, 60, said.

The chemical was being sprayed a “considerable distance” and, out of concern for herself and local fauna, she asked the workers to stop, which they did.

However, Mrs Ravenscroft’s symptoms continued to worsen.

A severe burning pain began in her chest and her voice was extremely hoarse.

“Then I started getting the sensation of a very tight band getting tighter and tighter and tighter around my chest. That got pretty scary,” she recalls.

“I was breathing by having very shallow breaths because it was so painful to breathe in deeply.”

She called triple-zero and was taken by ambulance to hospital, where she spent the rest of the day.

Mrs Ravenscroft said she contacted multiple government departments and agencies to try and find out how she could prevent this from happening again, but came up empty handed.

Since the chemical sprayer was a contractor Mrs Ravenscroft was finally forward-ed to Workplace Health and Safety, which has since begun looking into the case.

“There is no law protecting the public against being harmed by poison in the air that’s being deliberately sprayed,” Mrs Ravenscroft said.

“Not only is there no clear law, there is no one body or department that actually undertakes responsibility for doing some-thing about it.

“There’s no point in having laws if no one is directed to uphold those laws.

“I was flabbergasted that had that not been a workplace health and safety issue no one would have touched it.”

In an ABC local radio interview, Fiona O’Sullivan from Workplace Health and Safety said air pollution from spray drift is particularly common at this time of year.

“We have quite a number of these cases on our files at the moment and we’re making inquiries and working with the duty holders to try and come to some resolution,” she said.

“The Workplace Health and Safety Act places a range of duties on workplace situations and only workplace situations – we have to be very clear about that – but anyone who’s applying chemicals as part of their business has a duty under that legislation to do so without causing harm to others, and without causing harm to themselves as well.”

Ms O’Sullivan said in a non-workplace situation the local council should be the first port of call for complaints from members of the public.