Herbicide linked to birth defects

THE NSW Greens have called for a ban on the herbicide atrazine after NSW Health started an investigation into a cluster of birth defects from gastroschisis in the upper Northern Rivers.

Greens MP and spokesperson for healthy communities, Cate Faehrmann, said the NSW Government should not wait for confirmation of a birth defect cluster before moving to ban a possible culprit – the farming and forestry chemical atrazine.

“The use of atrazine has been controversial for years. It has already been banned in Germany, Italy, Norway and Sweden. The precautionary principal applies here. We shouldn't be putting the heath of communities at further risk while we wait for the outcome of the study.”

The Northern Star reported last week that the incidence of the disease gastroschisis – in which babies are born with their intestinal contents protruding through a hole in the abdominal wall – across the Lismore, Ballina and Casino hospitals could be as high as nine times the normal rate for the disease.

According to Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, atrazine is registered for use in both eucalypt tree plantations and cane growing.

The agency does not track the level of atrazine use across the country.

Forests NSW does not use atrazine in the Clarence Valley or elsewhere in the northern region, a spokesperson said.



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