Chemicals in the News: Endosulfan

Last updated 1 November 2010

What is endosulfan?

Endosulfan is an organochlorine compound registered for use in Australia as an insecticide in agricultural and horticultural crops for the control of a variety of insects and mites.

Current issues

The APVMA cancelled the approvals and product registrations of endosulfan in October 2010 . Concerns over the impact from spray drift and runoff of endosulfan on aquatic organisms, together with new information indicating that endosulfan is persistent, bioaccumulates and has the potential to travel long distances, prompted this action..

Background

The review of endosulfan commenced in 1995. During the period 1998 to 2001, the APVMA implemented significant changes to the supply and use of endosulfan products. The endosulfan review was finalised in 2005, resulting in significant additional restrictions on use to ensure the continued protection of human health, Australia’s trade, worker safety and the environment.

In 2007, endosulfan was proposed for inclusion in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP). This proposal has focused more public attention on endosulfan and thus produced a large volume of new information on its environmental fate and effects. This new information has been the basis for international regulatory agencies to cancel (New Zealand and USA) or propose to cancel (Canada) the use of endosulfan on both human health and environmental concerns.

Recent consideration

The APVMA and its evaluating agencies, The Office of Chemical Safety and Environmental Health (OCSEH) and The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC) have now considered this new information.

An assessment by the OCSEH indicated that, for the restricted conditions of use in Australia imposed in 2005, endosulfan does not represent a similar risk to agricultural workers as in the US. Apart from minor changes to recommended protective clothing on product labels, continued registration is supported. Neither the APVMA nor the OCSEH believe the US EPA action is a cause for action in Australia in relation to human health issues.

The APVMA received a report from DSEWPC that concludes that endosulfan is likely, because of its potential for off-site movement (spray drift and run-off), to lead to significant adverse chronic and sub chronic environmental effects on the basis of continued and prolonged use. DSEWPC found that endosulfan is a persistent, bioaccumulative chemical with the potential for transport over long distances. DSEWPC advised that these risks cannot be mitigated through restrictions on use or variations to label instructions.

It is important to note that nothing in the US EPA decision or the DSEWPC report suggests any immediate threat or harm to people or the environment that would lead to immediate suspension.

Action

Given the concerns identified by DSEWPC, the APVMA cancelled the approvals of endosulfan active constituents (3) and registration of endosulfan products (5) in October 2010.

Given the relatively limited amounts of endosulfan in use, the APVMA is allowing a phase-out period of two years for the sale and use of remaining stocks. This is consistent with other recent international regulatory decisions.

Stockholm Convention

Independent of the APVMA’s action, endosulfan has been under consideration by the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) (external site) of the Stockholm Convention since 2007.

At its meeting in Geneva 11 - 15 October 2010, the committee reviewed the risk management evaluation on endosulfan, which was based on information submitted by countries and others. After some discussion, it adopted the risk management evaluation and decided to recommend to the Conference of the Parties that it consider listing technical endosulfan (CAS 115-29-7), its related isomers (CAS 959-98-8 and CAS 33213-65-9) and endosulfan sulfate (CAS 1031-07-8) in Annex A of the Convention, with specific exemptions.

Several countries that are currently phasing out uses of endosulfan have indicated a need to continue some uses to allow for alternatives to be phased in. Furthermore, taking into account that replacing endosulfan with chemical and non-chemical alternatives may be difficult and/or costly for some specific crop pest complexes in some countries, it may be necessary to address those situations through specific exemptions under Annex A for up to five years to allow countries to continue use.

The recommendation of the POPRC to list endosulfan will be conveyed to the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention, to be held in April 2011. If agreed, most Parties to the Convention would need to take action to eliminate the production and use of all endosulfan consistent with the decision, with further import and export not permitted unless authorised under Annex A. This could effectively lead to the elimination of endosulfan from the global market. For some countries, such as Australia, a specific decision by the country to ratify the listing of endosulfan is required before obligations under the Convention would apply.

More information

Last updated on 13 January, 2011

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