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Lord Howe Island Health Risk Assessment

New report outlines low levels of risk to human health from Lord Howe Island rodent eradication.

Subject to final approvals, a combined ground and aerial application of rodenticide is planned for Australia’s World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island in 2018 to completely remove all invasive rats and mice. The rodents were introduced many years ago and now pose an ongoing and serious threat to the biodiversity of the island, its World Heritage status, and the health of the local inhabitants and tourists.

In order to reassure the local island population of around 350 people that the baiting application does not represent a human health risk, the Chief Scientist of New South Wales (NSW) commissioned and oversaw an independent quantitative risk assessment of potential exposure pathways to different segments of the community. An Expert Panel convened to oversee the development of and to review the Human Health Risk Assessment. The report prepared by consultants Ramboll Environ under the oversight of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer demonstrates that the exposure to the rodenticide brodifacoum “from all potential sources are below those likely to result in adverse health effects.”

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View over Lord Howe Island. Credit: Natalie Tapson

The report states that “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, and 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.”

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Assistant Project Manager Anthony Wilson discussing the project with Islander Les King. Credit: Jack Shick

Rodent eradication Project Manager Andrew Walsh said that “the process undertaken by the consultant and the expert panel was very thorough. The outcome of the assessment should help allay any concerns that the baiting operation, planned for winter 2018, in any way represents a risk to human health. This is great news for island residents.

Final Report

About Ray Nias

With his scientific and management background, fundraising experience and knowledge of the Southwest Pacific region, Ray is ideally placed to help make Island Conservation a major force for island conservation in the Southwest Pacific region.

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