Poison canisters washing up on Southeast Queensland beaches

4 September 2023 to 31 March 2024
4 September 2023 2:33pm

This alert applies to the following parks:

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is warning visitors of the potential dangers posed by toxic canisters washing up on Queensland beaches.

Since February 2012, emergency services have received reports from the public of small unlabelled canisters washing up on Australian beaches. Over the last two months, canisters have been reported washed up on beaches at K’gari, Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) and Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island).

The canisters contain a rat poison known as ‘aluminium phosphide’, a white to grey solid which is hazardous to humans.

When the canister is opened, the powder reacts with moisture in the air to release phosphine gas, which is also highly toxic to humans. The gas has a strong odour that can smell like garlic, rotting fish or urine, but it can quickly dull the sense of smell.

Exposure can cause symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, dizziness, tightness of the chest, diarrhoea, fluid in the lungs, liver/kidney damage, and in severe cases death.

The gas is also flammable and can spontaneously ignite causing burns or small explosions.

The canisters are silver in colour and approximately 22 centimetres tall. They have a tapered top with a screw in lid. Visit https://www.amsa.gov.au/news-community/news-and-media-releases/poison-canister-warning for images of the canisters.

Canisters should not be moved or opened, and any sightings should be reported to emergency services on Triple Zero (000).

More information

Emergency services

In an emergency situation, call 000.


For the latest information on fires in your area please contact QFES.

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