Posted by World Wildlife Fund on September 25th, 2011 7:11 pm
A new study reveals widespread pesticide contamination of catchments draining into the Great Barrier Reef at levels far higher than previously thought and as much as 50 times the level deemed safe.
The study shows three dangerous chemicals – atrazine, diuron and metachlor – were found at toxic levels exceeding, or far exceeding, national standards for contamination of freshwater ecosystems at eight sites along the Great Barrier Reef coast.
The study comes as the Australian Government’s regulator (APVMA) is considering whether to allow the continued use of diuron, a known carcinogen that has been under review for nine years due to health and environmental concerns.
“This paper is the smoking gun. Here we have clear evidence that at least three chemicals which are approved for sale – one of which is a known to cause cancer – are present in the Great Barrier Reef catchment and upstream of our internationally recognised wetlands at unacceptably toxic levels,” said WWF-Australia Freshwater Program Leader Nick Heath.
The study also found that diuron – which is highly toxic to some marine plants and animals – accounted for up to 97 per cent of the toxicity in Barratta Creek, one of the most important freshwater systems in the Burdekin region.
The Barratta Creek system includes many large, permanent wetlands and is directly upstream from the RAMSAR-listed wetlands of Bowling Green National Park.
“Every day the APVMA delays action on diuron and other toxic pesticides is another day our farmers and the Great Barrier Reef are exposed to this out-dated and highly poisonous chemical. The APVMA must act immediately to stop this threat.”
The study was done by a team of scientists from the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) and published this week in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.
It detected 18 different pesticides at 11 sites and stated that “herbicides pose a real threat to aquatic plants which play a key role in freshwater, estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems, providing vital services to the GBR, such as nutrient cycling, food resources and habitats.”