At the request of the Minister for the Environment, the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer commissioned an independent Human Health Risk Assessment for the Lord Howe Island’s proposed Rodent Eradication Program. The Rodent Eradication Program proposes to use the rodenticide brodifacoum, across the island to eradicate both rats and mice. The rodenticide, in the form of Pestoff 20R, would be distributed by aerial baiting, hand distributed, and in bait stations and trays.
Ramboll Environ Pty. Ltd. was engaged to undertake the Human Health Risk Assessment. An Expert Panel was convened to oversee its development and to review the Human Health Risk Assessment.
The Human Health Risk Assessment looked at a number of potential exposure pathways of the rodenticide to humans, including exposure through soil, air (dust), sediment, surface water, tank water as well as food sources such as seafood and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Potential risks from these pathways were then considered for those most sensitive, which included toddlers, school children, pregnant women and adults spending large amounts of time outside.
A quantitative risk assessment of these exposure pathways and population groups concluded that exposure to brodifacoum from all potential sources are below those likely to result in adverse health effects.
The Human Health Risk Assessment also assessed potential exposure due to ingestion of pellets and found that ingestion of one or a few pellets by a child is unlikely to result in observable anticoagulant effects.
While exposure to the rodenticide via the Rodent Eradication Program was not likely to result in adverse health effects, the pathways contributing most to projected exposure included:
The Human Health Risk Assessment report (the Report) was reviewed by the Expert Panel. The Expert Panel supported the conclusions of the Report noting that while adverse health effects are not expected, identification of the major pathways can allow those concerned with exposure to implementation mitigation strategies.
The Expert Panel noted that community concerns are greater than the scope of the Human Health Risk Assessment. These concerns include issues around health and wellbeing (e.g. anxiety and stress) and the implementation of the Rodent Eradication Program, such as the likelihood of success and possible need to undertake further eradications at a later date. It is clear that the Rodent Eradication Program is a divisive issue for the island, which has potential to affect social cohesion. Enhancement of community consultation and engagement may assist with alleviating some of these concerns, although expert advice or assistance from professionals should be considered to assist with health and wellbeing related concerns.
Planning for the case of the rats re-emerging will be considered through the Lord Howe Island Board’s rodent detection monitoring program. In such a case, measurement and monitoring should enable early intervention, and consideration of other possible approaches. Further, resistance to brodifacoum has been considered and if necessary additional strategies will be implemented to address this issue. Finally, should the Rodent Eradication Program need to be repeated at a later date, new technologies that are currently being researched (including reproductive technologies) may be considered noting that further research and commercialisation is required before being available commercially.
It is understood that other relevant approvals processes will look at environmental outcomes (effect of brodifacoum on non-rodent species), likelihood of success of the eradication, and approval of helicopter operations during the Rodent Eradication Program (Civil Aviation Safety Authority). The results of these approvals and the recommendations of this report will be considered by the Lord Howe Island Board.
The Report on the Human Health Risk Assessment for the Lord Howe Island’s proposed Rodent Eradication Program can be viewed here.