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What is 1080?

Photo of 1080 pellets1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) is a naturally occurring toxin found in plants in Australia, South America and South Africa. It’s thought to have developed to put animals off browsing.

As a pesticide, 1080 is manufactured synthetically in the United States of America. It breaks down harmlessly in water and soil. It’s poisonous to possums, which die humanely of heart or respiratory failure.

Are there any risks?

Many people are concerned about the use of 1080, especially about the health risks, and the effects on native birds.

1080 and human health

  • 1080 will kill people if they consume enough of it, either by eating 1080 baits directly or by consuming contaminated food or water that contains 1080. However, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright noted in her 2011 evaluation of the use of 1080 that: "there are no known records of any deaths from people consuming baits from the field use of 1080."1
  • In the 1960s a possum hunter died after eating 1080-laced jam bait that was present in his home. This bait formulation is now banned.1
  • Research shows 1080 does not cause cancer or birth defects, but those working with 1080 should follow strict safety precautions, as with all poisons.

1080 in water and soil

  • 1080 doesn’t remain in soil or water, but breaks down harmlessly into natural substances.
  • Extensive soil and water testing following 1080 drops around New Zealand has not resulted in any contamination of water supplies.

1080 may affect dogs

  • Dogs are particularly susceptible to 1080 poisoning. They can also be poisoned if they eat the carcasses of animals poisoned by 1080, such as possums or rabbits.
  • Dog owners are warned to keep dogs away from areas where 1080 will be dropped, or at least muzzle dogs.

1080 effects on bird life

  • 1080 bait is dyed green and cinnamon is added.  This attracts possums, but the colour and smell deters birds from eating it.
  • Where 1080 has been used, the drop in predator numbers means bird life can flourish.
  • Research shows significant increases in native birds numbers where 1080 has been used.
  • Monitoring has shown 1080 can kill individual birds, but this is very rare.

Footnotes

1. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. June 2011. Evaluating the use of 1080: Predators, poisons and silent forests. Wellington: 49. See http://www.pce.parliament.nz/assets/Uploads/PCE-1080.pdf