Chemicals in Australia are approved federally by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority. Thereafter, pesticide monitoring and impacts are managed by states for commercial and environmental impacts and local governments for individual impacts. Pesticide pollution across Australia has resulted in water pollution, spray drift, accidents, industrial pollution and impacts on fauna. The most commonly detected pesticides are the triazine herbicides. Atrazine and Simazine. A lot of people are suffering from pesticide exposure in isolation as legislation and the legal system are inadequate to protect them and bring justice. The following interview provides insight into pesticide pollution in Australia and the Australian Pesticides Map.
This description is based on an interview with Anthony Amis, Campaigner with Friends of the Earth, at the Australian Environmental Justice Event, Sustainable Living Festival, Saturday 13 February, 2016, Melbourne, Australia. "I’ve mainly worked on pesticides and drinking water in the last 10 years. It’s a big story. We’ve put together the Australian Pesticides Map  which documents over 1650 incidents of pesticide pollution that span rural and urban areas. The incidents include water pollution, spray drift, accidents, industrial pollution and impacts on fauna.
The most commonly detected pesticides in Australia are the triazine herbicides Atrazine and Simazine. Both have been linked with endocrine disruption and both have been controversial in many parts of the world since the 1990’s.
The story goes way back to the 1950s and 1960s when pesticides were used without much concern across the landscape and people were exposed to spray drift. In urban areas, we’ve seen through the Australian Pesticides Map, that local residents and researchers continue to be concerned about past issues, particularly with 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D production facilities including Fawkner and Laverton in Melbourne, Homebush Bay in New South Wales and Kwinana in Western Australia. Dieldrin contamination near Gembrook is the most searched for item for Victoria. Past issues with use of organochlorines in cattle dip operations in NSW, vegetable growing at Ferntree Gully and tobacco growing in the Ovens Valley are still widely searched for. Banana sprays used at Coffs Harbour in the 1980’s is also commonly looked up, as are pesticides released at Ocean outfalls and insecticide pollution from a golf course in Sydney in 2001. In terms of the food we eat, one of the major concerns at the moment is the impact of a class of pesticides called organophosphates on children. We’ve all been exposed in one way or another. ( The ten most frequently sourced individual pages (pages highlighting local issues) are listed in the Materials section of this database form) The impacts vary between individuals and laws protecting individuals from pesticides are almost non-existent. Laws are focussed on protecting property and are a mish mash across federal and state governments. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) evaluates and approves chemicals to be used in Australia. Once a chemical is used however, the states are obligated to monitor the chemical through Control of Use Legislation. So if you’ve got a crop and a neighbour sprays a particular chemical that knocks your crop out, the state department has field officers to go out and investigate the problem.
It’s completely different for individuals. If you’re a local person, in a local area and you’re exposed to spray drift, your local council needs to act under the nuisance provisions of the Local Government Act, if they don’t, your only option is to take civil action, which means you’ll end up in a court. If you lose that hearing, you could be up for half a million dollars in legal costs paying for the opposition’s expense. If they’re a company, they’ll most likely get a suite of experts on-board who will shoot you down, so what chance has the small player got? The company can also claim back via their tax return a fair portion of their legal costs.
This creates an additional problem, where there is effectively a legislative cone of silence over the whole issue. If you’re embroiled in a legal case, information about the case must be confidential until a decision is made - effectively years later.
I’ve scoured a lot of information in my research and I haven’t found off the top of my head anyone who has taken the chemical companies to court for health impacts, whereas damage from spray drift to crops is quite common.
A lot of people suffering from pesticide exposure are basically doing it in isolation. There are very few networks for them to hook into. One network is the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Network, which has been pushing this for a long time.
So I’ve been researching where the hot spots have been and where pollution is happening and recording this information on a database because these incidents are not really recorded in the public sphere. What I want people to understand is that these battles have been happening for twenty or thirty years and the tactics usually employed by industry and government are the same in every instance. Unless you can track what has happened through historical records, a lot of campaigns in the current day won’t quite know the tricks and nuances used by the current government.”