First step towards reassessment of copper substances
26 June 2020
Significant new information has led a decision-making committee to accept that grounds exist to reassess copper powder and compounds.
These substances are chemicals that have broad spectrum use, including as fungicides for organically-produced fruit and vegetables.
Establishing grounds is a specific legal requirement that must be met under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) before an application can be made for a substance to be reassessed.
A reassessment involves reviewing hazardous substances already approved in New Zealand, to decide if the approval needs to be revoked or whether rule changes are required.
The International Copper Association applied for reassessment grounds after the Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) published a comprehensive review on the hazards of these chemicals. The OECD review found some copper substances “do pose both an acute and chronic hazard to the environment”.
As well, the OECD report noted that some copper substances are hazardous to human health. Eye irritation, and ingestion or inhalation, were specifically identified as acute hazards – meaning immediate health effects after exposure.
Taking the OECD findings into account, if an application for reassessment is now made it could lead to hazard classification changes.
Hazard classifications describe whether a substance is explosive or flammable, for example, and its human health and environmental effects. Any changes to hazard classifications may also have an effect on the rules that apply to the substances.