Parkinson's disease and agricultural chemical regulation

The issue

Hypotheses from a variety of research sources over a number of years have proposed there may be links between the use of some pesticides and Parkinson’s Disease.

Scientific evidence considered by the APVMA

The APVMA welcomes all high quality research which contributes to protecting people, animals, crops and the environment from harm and regularly undertakes robust assessment of new scientific information.

Findings from both epidemiological and laboratory research to date have not provided any clear scientific evidence linking use of agricultural chemicals with Parkinson's disease.

In 2014, the APVMA examined the results of an extensive review of published epidemiology studies, including those studies looking at exposure to herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. The conclusions were that:

  • based upon available data, there was no scientific basis to conclude a causal relationship between any variable reviewed and Parkinson's disease
  • there may be specific risk factors for Parkinson's Disease that are associated with rural living, farming or well water consumption but  studies to date were not adequately designed or conducted to identify these factors.

In addition, of the chemicals  used in agriculture 30 or 40 years ago—most have either been removed from the market, or regulatory action has been taken to require greater personal protection for users or to limit their use. The passage of time makes it difficult for researchers to establish direct links between the use of particular chemicals and current diseases, including Parkinson's disease.

APVMA role

New scientific information can emerge at any time which suggests a change in the risks to human health, the environment, animal or crop safety, or trade and the APVMA can take immediate action if required.

If the APVMA assesses that based on new information a chemical risk cannot be managed with current safety or use instructions, it can suspend or cancel products, including recalling products form the market.

The APVMA can also decide to do a formal review to scientifically reassess the risks and determine whether regulatory changes are necessary to ensure that the chemical or veterinary medicine can continue to be used safely and effectively.

Full chemical reviews are complex, have high resource requirements and long timeframes—current statutory timeframes can be up to five years. For these reasons, the APVMA generally seeks to address regulatory issues pragmatically by exploring alternative regulatory and non-regulatory pathways before deciding to conduct a full chemical review.

Can chemicals be used safely?

Yes, the simple rule is always follow the safety and use instructions on the label.

The APVMA regularly updates its practical guidance on using chemicals safely and about specific chemicals of concern.

 Read more information on using chemicals safely.

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