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First Step Towards Reassessing Controversial Insecticide

A decision-making committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has found that grounds exist to reassess the insecticide, chlorpyrifos, and the related compound chlorpyrifos-methyl.

Chlorpyrifos is currently approved in New Zealand for commercial use in crops, as a veterinary medicine, and as a timber treatment chemical. It is an organophosphate, meaning it has an active ingredient that kills bugs and insects in orchards, vineyards, vegetable and cereal crops.

Several countries have moved to restrict or prohibit chlorpyrifos in recent years. The European Commission has not renewed its approval for the substance, Australia has cancelled domestic use, and Canada has proposed cancelling most existing uses.

New Zealand studies have detected the presence of chlorpyrifos in streams, air, and soil.

"This application for grounds to reassess chlorpyrifos, chlorpyrifos-methyl, and substances containing them was initiated by the EPA," says the EPA's acting General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Clark Ehlers.

Establishing grounds is a specific legal requirement that must be met under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act before an application can be made for a substance to be reassessed. A reassessment is a formal review of the rules controlling a substance that is already in use in New Zealand.

"Our decision-makers have now determined that grounds exist for a reassessment, based on significant new information about the effects of this substance," says Dr Ehlers.

Chlorpyrifos is on the EPA’s priority chemicals list, which is made up of those substances we believe are most in need of review in New Zealand. The next step is a call for information, to seek more detail on how and where products containing these substances are being used. This will form the basis of a reassessment application, which will be formally prepared and opened for public submissions next year.

Read the full decision on grounds for reassessment

Find out about the process for reassessing hazardous substances 

Read the EPA’s priority chemicals list

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