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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1585

(Question No. 62)


Senator Macklin asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 28 February 1985:

(1) Was the Australian Government advised by Dr Warwick Raymont in February 1967 that the chemical o-TOLIDINE, used to test the chlorine content in swimming pools and drinking waters, had been banned in 1966 by most civilised countries because it was found to be one of the most dangerous cancer causing chemicals known.

(2) Is there a risk to a person whose skin comes into contact with the chemical o-TOLIDINE, even in one part per billion concentration.

(3) Do re-agent kits used in Australia to test pool chlorine contain o-TOLIDINE and is this chemical referred to as 'OT'.


Senator Grimes —The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) My Departmental staff cannot find any record of advice from Dr Warwick Raymont on this subject. If the honourable senator is able to provide information on the capacity in which Dr Raymont may have given such advice, and the administrative area to which the advice may have been directed, then I shall arrange for further enquiries to be made.

I am not aware of any country where all use of o-tolidine is banned, although regulations governing its use vary widely. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commenting on the toxicity of dyestuffs, issued the following recommendation in 1980:

'The available literature on dyes based on o-tolidine and o-dianisidine, while less extensive and definitive than that for benzidine-based dyes, suggests that these compounds and/or their contaminants may present a cancer risk to workers and should be handled with caution and exposure minimised'.

O-tolidine is certainly not one of the most dangerous cancer-causing chemicals known. It does not appear in the lists of known or probable carcinogens issued by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in October 1982.

The use of this substance in test kits for chlorine has been kept under review by the National Health and Medical Research Council. It was last discussed by the Poisons Schedule Committee on 6 February 1985, where the following points were made:

(i) Evidence of carcinogenicity in animals was inconclusive.

(ii) There was no evidence that alternative test substances for chlorine were any safer.

The Committee therefore recommended against further restriction of o-tolodine. It remains in Poison Schedule 6, when packed for use in water testing.

(2) Judging from the evidence available, any such risk is likely to be minuscule. However, it is not possible to guarantee that there is no risk whatsoever.

(3) Some reagent kits used in Australia do contain o-tolidine. It is generally referred to as OTO.