BEACHGOERS are being reminded not to open any containers washed up on Mornington Peninsula beaches.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority warned toxic canisters in the Torres Strait, Queensland, NSW, South Australia and Tasmania. The unlabelled silver canisters contain a rat poison known as aluminium phosphide.
When a canister is opened, powder reacts with moisture in the air to release highly toxic phosphine gas which is a danger to humans.
While there have been no reported cases in Victoria and currents make it likely these containers will not find their way to Port Phillip Bay it is a reminder for all beachgoers to report mystery canisters washed ashore at any time.
Exposure to phosphine gas can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, 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.
Most aluminium phosphide is imported into Australia from China and Africa, and the unused nature of the canisters suggests they have come from an unreported shipping cargo loss sometime before February 2012.
The AMSA will monitor the situation and provide technical advice to local hazmat and emergency response services when the canisters are washed ashore.
Queensland and NSW fire and emergency services have dealt with over 40 canisters washed up in three years.
Canisters should not be moved or opened and any sightings should be reported to emergency services on 000.