Approximately seven million shipping containers pass through Australian ports annually, sourced from a diverse group of overseas countries.
For biological security reasons containers and their contents are often fumigated with gaseous pesticides such as methyl bromide and phosphine.
In addition to intentionally added fumigants, the chemicals used in the manufacture or packaging of consumer products may off-gas and accumulate in a sealed container.
This presents a potential inhalation hazard to persons entering or unloading shipping containers.
Recent studies suggest that air concentrations of residual chemicals are present in container air at levels exceeding commonly used occupational exposure limits, with estimates of the proportion of containers affected ranging from a few per cent to as high as 20–30 per cent.
Click here to view the full report Hazard Surveillance: Residual Chemicals in Shipping Containers