Agriculture Minister Ernie Bridge has moved to safeguard Western Australians against the use of fertilisers contaminated by heavy metals.
Mr Bridge today announced changes to the Fertiliser Regulations to make it an offence to manufacture, sell, distribute or use a fertiliser containing more than a set maximum level of heavy metal contamination.
Last year, the Department of Agriculture intercepted about 20 tonnes of a zinc fertiliser additive contaminated with toxic waste which was imported through Fremantle.
Analysis of the fertiliser showed levels of heavy metal contamination to be well in excess of that believed to be acceptable, and indicated it was potentially capable of causing risk to human health through the food chain.
At the time, there was no legislation to prevent the distribution of heavy metal contaminated fertiliser in WA, so the State Government amended the Health Regulations to control the use and sale of such materials up to January 1, 1993.
"We now have to move with the rest of Australia and New Zealand to introduce maximum acceptable levels of heavy metal contamination in fertilisers, and this will be done by putting in place permanent legislation to enforce these levels and safeguard the health of Western Australians," he said.
The Agricultural Council of Australia and New Zealand had recommended a uniform approach in establishing maximum levels of heavy metal contamination, and this would be adopted in current fertiliser legislation.
For cadmium, the maximum accepted level would be 500 mg per kilogram in a phosphatic fertiliser, or 80 mg per kilogram of total product.
For mercury, the level would be 50 mg of mercury per kilogram of phosphorus, or 5 mg per kilogram of total product. For lead, the level would be 500 mg of lead per kilogram of total product.
The new regulations, intended to become effective from January 1, 1993, would be administered by the Department of Agriculture.