What are pesticides?
A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances used to destroy, suppress or alter the life cycle of a pest. A pesticide can be a naturally derived or synthetically produced substance. A pesticide can also be an organism.
Pesticides include herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, fumigants, bactericides, rodenticides, baits, lures and repellents. Products used on animals to control external parasites are also considered pesticides if they require dilution or mixing with water, unless they are listed as a low-risk veterinary chemical product in the Regulation to the Stock Medicines Act 1989. Pesticides control pest organisms by physically, chemically or biologically interfering with their metabolism or normal behaviour.
For more detailed information, including the legal definition of pesticides under the Pesticides Act 1999, see the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) webpage What are pesticides and how do they work?
Safe use of pesticides program and poster
A DVD and posters about safe pesticide use are available to help NSW market gardeners and horticultural workers from diverse backgrounds understand how to use pesticides safely and legally.
The poster is available in:
Copies of the DVD and A2 laminated poster, in English and a range of community languages, can be requested from the EPA Environment Line.
For more details, see the information sheets in:
These handy visual reminders complement information provided in mandatory pesticide training courses. They will also be a useful resource for pesticide trainers and for agricultural, water catchment and environment advisory workers who work with growers in the Sydney Basin and across the state.
Web versions of the video are available in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Arabic and Khmer, along with other community language resources under Using pesticides safely and legally.
Spray drift management
The EPA, in collaboration with the NSW Farmers Association, Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and Cotton Australia, has prepared an education campaign to inform farmers on how to avoid spray drift and about the technical and regulatory requirements when using 2,4-D.
Download the Spray Drift Management webpage and Factsheet
Are there controls on pesticides?
Yes, because of the associated risks, pesticide use and pesticide users are subject to a range of NSW and Commonwealth controls. The APVMA assesses and registers pesticides before they are permitted to be used in NSW. The registration of existing pesticides is reviewed by the APVMA to ensure the pesticides meet current environmental, health and trade standards.
The EPA regulates the proper use of pesticides through the provisions of the Pesticides Act 1999. Many Commonwealth and NSW government agencies, as well as other stakeholder organisations, have a role in managing pesticides in NSW. The EPA's Managing Pesticides in NSW webpage explains the roles of some of these organisations.
Download the Regulating pesticides in NSW fact sheet (10978Pesticidefactsheet.pdf, 391 kb)
About the Pesticides Act 1999
The focus of the Pesticides Act 1999 is to protect health, the environment, property and trade while safeguarding responsible pesticide use in NSW.
The Implementation of the Pesticides Act 1999: Report to the Minister for the Environment by the Pesticides Implementation Committee records the work and recommendations of this committee, which included representatives from industry, community and government.
Compulsory training in the use of pesticides
Since 1 September 2005, training in the use of pesticides has been compulsory for people who use pesticides as part of their job or business in NSW. These pesticide users must do a short refresher course every five years.
Pesticides can be dangerous if incorrectly applied or managed. Training in their correct use minimises mistakes when pesticides are used and help protect workers, their families, the community, trade and the environment. If you apply pesticides as part of your job or business, then you need to be trained and keep your training up-to-date.
Compulsory to keep records of pesticide use
Keeping records of pesticide use is compulsory for people who use pesticides as part of their job or business in NSW. Keeping records can help reduce health, trade and environmental impacts by providing vital information if problems occur. It can also help track the effectiveness of the pesticides used, and in the event of an incident, assist in demonstrating that pesticides were used responsibly.
Notification of pesticide use
Since February 2007, certain groups must provide notification of pesticide use. Public authorities are required to develop notification plans, and property managers and pest management technicians must give notice of pesticide applications to common areas of flats and other multiple occupancy dwellings.
Pesticide control orders
When the APVMA declares pesticides products to be restricted pesticides, they can only be supplied to and used by persons authorised under state legislation.
The Pesticides Act requires a person who uses a restricted pesticide to be authorised to do so by way of pesticide control orders.
Copper chrome arsenate (CCA)
The APVMA released the final review report on the findings and regulatory outcomes of arsenic timber treatments (copper chrome arsenate (CCA) and arsenic trioxide) in March 2005. The APVMA recommendations included:
- CCA timber treatment products will be prohibited for future use on timber intended for use in children's play equipment, picnic tables, decking and handrails.
- Supply of CCA timber treatment products will be restricted to appropriately trained users.
- Timber treatment facilities must be designed and operated to meet Australian Standards for timber treatment.
- CCA product labels will provide more detailed instructions for timber treatment operations, waste management and disposal and protection of the environment.
A copy of the report and frequently asked questions and answers about CCA are available on the APVMA website.
Health information about CCA and treated timber is also available from NSW Health.
The EPA licenses facilities in the wood preservation industry under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. During 2003 the EPA audited these facilities and continues to encourage the industry to make further environmental improvements by implementing best environmental management practices.
More information about pesticides laws and reporting a pesticide misuse
For more information about pesticides laws, contact Environment Line. For information on reporting a pesticide incident see How to respond to a pesticide incident.
For information on which pesticides are registered, which substances fall under the legal definition of a pesticide or what pesticides are under review contact the APVMA on (02) 6210 4748 or visit APVMA website.
Page last updated: 04 December 2012