Be aware: Glyphosate and organophosphates - fact sheet

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in March 2015 found sufficient evidence to re-classify the carcinogenicity of glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup) and four organophosphate pesticides (malathion, diazionon, tetrachlorvinphos and parathion).

New findings

Based on a review of current research evidence, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency under WHO, upgraded the carcinogenic status of the herbicide glyphosate and the pesticides malathion and diazinon from 2B carcinogens (a possible carcinogen) to 2A carcinogens (a probable carcinogen). The pesticides tetrachlorvinphos and parathion were classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).The IARC findings are reported on its Monograph 112 available on www.monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol112

The IARC findings are reported on the Monograph available on.

Regulator response

In November 2015 the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the registering authority for agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines,  explained the IARC  assessment on its web site. The APVMA is   now examining the IARC’s  full monograph in collaboration with the federal Department of Health’s Office of Chemical Safety to determine any necessary regulatory action  including whether glyphosate should be formally reviewed in Australia. The APVMA advises glyphosate products users to follow label instructions and that based on current risk assessments provides adequate protection for users.

Industry response

Manufacturers and importers should update the carcinogen information on the safety data sheets (SDS) as a precautionary approach to convey delayed health effects and provide  any additional health and safety information required.

What you should do

If you use these chemicals, obtain the latest information and conduct a risk assessment on their use. Use the hierarchy of control to develop safe work methods and avoid exposure.

Before purchase and use, ask yourself

  • Can I eliminate these hazardous chemicals with other methods of pest control, for example integrated pest management approaches like mechanical slashing or hand weeding?
  • Can I substitute with safer chemicals for example, substituting non-biodegradable with biodegradable pesticides? (Organophosphates can be substituted with available pyrethroids.)
  • Are my pesticides registered in Australia for approved purposes?
  • Have I read the labels and followed instructions, and am I using pesticides at approved doses?
  • Have I read the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for health and safety information and stored my chemicals according to SDS advice?
  • Am I using the right personal protective equipment (PPE) as per the SDS?
  • Am I using the most appropriate application system to reduce my risk of exposure?
  • Have I considered possible routes of pesticide exposure and contamination and washed my hands thoroughly? For example, cross contamination can occur through air, water soil, food and clothes.
  • Have I got emergency and safety equipment on hand ready to use?
  • Can my workers quickly access emergency contact details?

If you are worried about any possible health effects when using these pesticides, talk to your employer or consult your doctor.

Smoking and poor hygiene practice can increase your risk of exposure to pesticides.

Organophosphate pesticides and health monitoring regulatory requirements

The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 lists 14 chemicals for which health monitoring must be undertaken if a worker is regularly using them. This list includes organophosphate pesticides. Further information is available in Safe Work Australia’s Health Monitoring for Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals Guide for Workers.

Disclaimer

This publication may contain work health and safety and workers compensation information. It may include some of your obligations under the various legislations that WorkCover NSW administers. To ensure you comply with your legal obligations you must refer to the appropriate legislation. Information on the latest laws can be checked by visiting the NSW legislation website legislation.nsw.gov.au This publication does not represent a comprehensive statement of the law as it applies to particular problems or to individuals or as a substitute for legal advice. You should seek independent legal advice if you need assistance on the application of the law to your situation.

Catalogue No. WC01798 | ISBN 978 1 74341 000 0 | © Copyright WorkCover NSW 0815

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