former Standing Council on Environment and Water

(incorporating the National Environment Protection Council)

EPHC Archive - Chemicals

Caution: archived content

Information previously available on the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) website (www.ephc.gov.au) is listed in this archive. These pages are no longer being maintained or updated but remain here as an archive for your information.

National Dioxins Program

In the 2001-02 Federal Budget, the Australian Government announced a four-year National Dioxins Program to reduce dioxin and dioxin-like substances in the environment.

A priority for the program was to improve knowledge about dioxin levels in Australia, assess the risks to the Australian population and the environment, and to consider appropriate management actions.

Studies commenced in 2001 to measure emissions from sources such as bushfires and motor vehicles, and to determine dioxin levels in the environment, food and population. The findings of these studies were used to determine the risk dioxins pose to our health and the environment.

The studies show that the levels of dioxins in our food, our bodies and the environment are generally low when compared with levels internationally. They also showed that the risks to human health and the environment are low. Although there were a small number of samples analysed, these studies provide the largest survey of dioxin levels ever undertaken in Australia.

Copies of these studies and risk assessments are available on the Environment Department's website at: http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/chemicals/dioxins/index.html.

Measures to ensure that levels remain low, and where feasible are eliminated, are outlined in theNational Action Plan for Addressing Dioxins in Australia.

In October 2005, EPHC endorsed an Action Plan to address dioxins in Australia. The Action Plan will contribute towards meeting Australia's obligations in relation to reducing dioxin releases as required under Article 5 of the Stockholm Convention.The Action Plan will become part of Australia's National Implementation Plan (NIP) which will set out how we will meet broader obligations under the Convention.

The Action Plan has been implemented in consultation with other ministerial councils with an interest in dioxins including Food Regulation, Primary Industries and Health. 

The plan will be amended from time to time to reflect international moves aimed at reducing dioxin releases.


Final Report on the ChemCollect Program

The ChemCollect program was established in 1999 as part of the management plan for organochlorine pesticides under the National Strategy for the Management of Scheduled Waste sponsored by the then Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) .

ChemCollect is a free collection scheme for the collection and safe disposal of unwanted and de-registered agricultural and veterinary chemicals (particularly persistent organochlorines) from farms. This included DDT, chlordane, dieldrin, aldrin, heptachlor, lindane, hexachlorobenzene and chlorinated phenols such as pentachlorophenol, unwanted registered pesticides and other hazardous rural chemicals. Between 1999 - 2000, approximately 1700 tonnes of chemicals were collected. The majority of chemicals collected have been destroyed. The States the Northern Territory are working together to ensure that these chemicals remain in storage and are destroyed in a timely and environmentally-sound manner. ChemClear provides ongoing collections of unwanted registered rural chemicals, which are otherwise non-returnable.

The ChemCollect program was coordinated by the then Department of the Environment & Heritage (Australian Government) and implemented by State and the Northern Territory agencies.


Organochlorine Pesticides (OCPs) and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) in the Australian population: Levels in Human Milk

Australian governments have been taking action against persistent organic pollutants such as OCPs for some years. Import bans were imposed on polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the 1970s; many OCPs were withdrawn from use in the 1980s. In the 1990s Management Plans were developed for PCBs, OCPs and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), to guide Australian governments in the management and destruction of the stockpile of materials that remained in Australia awaiting destruction.

In June 2002, a review of the Polychlorinated Biphenyls Management Plan made several recommendations, including that monitoring of breast milk for PCBs should be undertaken as an indicator of exposure of the Australian population to PCBs. The plan also recommended that it would be advantageous if this was done in conjunction with the proposed National Dioxins Program.

In September 2002, EPH Standing Committee agreed to investigate the following 15 chemicals:aldrin (incl. isodrin), chlordane, DDT, DDD, DDE, dieldrin, endosulfanes (including endosulfanesulfate), endrin, heptachlor, HCB, lindane, other HCHs, pentachloronitrotrobenzene, pentachlorophenol and PBDEs.

The study found that levels of OCPs are low compared with those found in international studies, which is consistent with the use of most of these chemicals being phased out in Australia since the 1980s. The report of the study can be downloaded below. The levels of PBDEs are consistent with those reported internationally, however, the levels are higher than those observed in Europe and Japan but lower than those observed in North America.