Diuron must be banned to protect health and environment

Posted on 28 November 2012  | 
Siltation at a rivermouth close to Bundaberg. Queensland, Australia.
Siltation at a rivermouth close to Bundaberg. Queensland, Australia.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon Enlarge
WWF is calling on the federal government to better protect the health of Australians and the environment by banning the use of the toxic and unmanageable herbicide Diuron.

After a review that has lasted almost a decade, Australia’s chemical regulator is due to make a final decision by the end of the month on whether it will allow the ongoing use of the chemical in light of substantial scientific evidence that it is causing damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

Diuron is classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as a ‘known or likely carcinogen’ and has been linked to coral bleaching and seagrass die-back on the Great Barrier Reef. It represents 80 per cent of the herbicide pollution pressure on the reef and has been found in quantities up to 100 times the safe levels inside the World Heritage Area.

“I think most Australians would be surprised that it has taken so long for our regulator to take action on a dangerous chemical that is polluting and damaging our freshwater and marine environments,” said WWF spokesperson Nick Heath.

“To give an indication of how toxic this stuff is, just one gram in four Olympic-sized swimming pools is enough to damage sea grass. And one of the most sensitive sea grasses is the preferred food source for turtle and dugongs.”

In March this year, the APVMA limited the use of Diuron in the Wet Tropics to the dry season in an attempt to reduce the amount that gets washed onto the Great Barrier Reef.

But a report released by WWF at that time showed that Diuron has a half-life of up to 500 days, which means it remains toxic in the soil across the wet and dry seasons and makes these kinds of conditions around its usage ineffective.

“What the evidence shows is that Diuron is so persistent and unmanageable that it is escaping paddocks and contaminating the Great Barrier Reef, despite efforts by those on the ground to do the right thing and control its use,” Mr Heath said.

“The only way to ensure that Australians are safe from this harmful chemical and to keep it out of the marine and freshwater environments is to take it off the shelves completely. Alternative products are already available right now.

“Before the last federal election, Julia Gillard promised to better protect Australians and the environment from the most dangerous chemicals but here we are two years on and not enough has happened.

“This is a chance for the prime minister to show she was sincere in making that promise, and that she intends to provide the APVMA with the legislation, mandate and budget to keep us safe from harmful pesticides.”

To view the report on Diuron click here

Media contacts:
Charlie Stevens, National Media Manager, WWF-Australia, 0432 206 592
Siltation at a rivermouth close to Bundaberg. Queensland, Australia.
Siltation at a rivermouth close to Bundaberg. Queensland, Australia.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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