Bans urged for farm toxins on Barrier Reef

Posted: 09/28/2011 in all marine news

Petrina Berry – 

Queensland Environment Minister Vicky Darling says it is up to the national pesticide regulator to look at bans on cancer-causing farm chemicals washing onto the Great Barrier Reef.

A study by scientists in her department have discovered traces of dangerous pesticides up to 50 times the levels deemed safe in waterways flowing onto the reef.

Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) scientists found three chemicals – atrazine, diuron and metachlor – were at toxic levels exceeding national standards for contamination of freshwater ecosystems at eight sites along the Great Barrier Reef coast.

The national chemical regulator, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), is already considering whether to allow the continued use of diuron.

Diuron is a known cancer-causing chemical that has been under review for nine years due to health and environmental concerns.

WWF Australia freshwater program leader Nick Heath says DERM’s study is the “smoking gun” and APVMA must ban diuron immediately.

The DERM team found “these very dangerous pesticides at 50 times the safe level” in rivers draining to the reef, causing concern for the whole ecosystem, Mr Heath said.

“These chemicals basically take out the bottom of the food chain.”

Mr Heath said the study found that diuron accounted for up to 97 per cent of the toxins in Barratta Creek, an important freshwater system in the Burdekin region.

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