Hazardous pesticides freely available

Many chemicals available in Australia are no longer registered in Europe.
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  • Updated:17 Jun 2011

02.Hazardous pesticides

hand spraying aerosol can

In brief

  • Synthetic pyrethroids have long been hailed a safer option to organophosphate pesticides, but several studies show they can adversely affect the health of future generations.
  • The Australian regulator’s permissive, wait-and-see approach to pesticide regulation is out of step with global best practice.

Cockroach baits, termite and ant treatments, household surface sprays, flea shampoos and head lice treatments are just some of the products we regularly use in our battle against household pests – but many contain ingredients that could seriously affect our health and that of our children.

The downside of keeping your home pest-free is that chemical residues can linger in the air and soil, and on floors, carpets and indoor surfaces, where we can breathe them in or absorb them through the skin. Some chemicals can have immediate and acute poisoning effects, while others can accumulate and remain in our bodies for years, adding to our chemical load every time we give the kitchen surface a spray or the ant nest a dusting.

CHOICE found many chemicals no longer registered in the European Union (EU) or soon to be removed – either because they were deemed to pose a risk or insufficient information was provided to permit their use – are widely used in household insecticides in Australia. See below.  

Chemical Class / family Approved for use in EU?Registered for use in Australia?Examples of household products containing chemical as active ingredient
Chlorpyrifos Organophosphate No Yes Cockroach baits, ant killer
Malathion/maldison Organophosphate No Yes Insect killer
Allethrin Synthetic pyrethroid No Yes Mosquito zappers and coils
Bioallethrin Synthetic pyrethroid No Yes Insect surface sprays
Bioresmethrin Synthetic pyrethroid No Yes Insect surface sprays
Permethrin Synthetic pyrethroid No (A) Yes - marked for review Fly/mosquito surface sprays, flea killers, pet shampoos and flea collars
Fenoxycarb Carbamate No Yes Flea and cockroach bombs
Pyriproxyfen Pyridine No Yes Cat flea collar

CHOICE verdict

Even if the scientific evidence is not yet comprehensive, enough information is available to make us question our assumption that there are “safe” exposure levels of toxic chemicals. Rather than managing hazardous chemicals merely by restricting where and how they’re applied, CHOICE believes Australian regulators should broaden their focus and investigate a chemical’s endocrine disruption potential when assessing its toxicity.

We urge the Australian government to apply the precautionary principle to all chemicals and place the burden of proof on manufacturers and importers that a chemical is safe, rather than simply giving them the benefit of the doubt.


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