Tests shows high levels of dioxin

ONE NEWS TVNZ:
March 10, 2005

Test results released by the Ministry of Health have confirmed that a second group of long-term residents of New Plymouth’s Paritutu suburb have high levels of dioxin in their blood.
The area is near the former Ivon Watkins Dow (IWD) agrichemical plant which produced dioxin as a contaminant from 1962 to 1987.
The ministry has released details on another 28 people who were tested.
The report confirms the findings of the interim report, released in September last year, which found that residents who had lived very near to the plant for at least 15 years between 1962 and 1987 were more likely to have higher levels of dioxin than other New Zealanders.
This was thought to be from breathing fumes from IWD.
Director of Public Health, Mark Jacobs, said the study deliberately concentrated on people calculated to be the most exposed to dioxins. However, the study did not determine whether health effects had occurred among the group.
“I have considerable sympathy for those people whose tests showed an elevated level of dioxin. I realise it is very worrying to get results like these without a clear indication what they might mean for each person,” Dr Jacobs said.
He said the ministry will be working with the Taranaki District Health Board to identify particular health needs within the Paritutu community and provide appropriate support, where required, for people exposed to dioxin between 1962 to 1987.
He said further investigations of health concerns were planned.
A local study of specific cance rs that have been linked with historical dioxin exposure (lymphocytic leukaemia, soft tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) is expected to be completed in June.
A similar study comparing local birth defect data with other regions for the 10 years 1980-89 will be analysed for any trends in birth defects in the New Plymouth area that may be associated with past dioxin exposures.
Ministry of Health officials say they will continue to work with the Paritutu community to address concerns, but anti-dioxin campaigns say the ministry is still refusing to test people who have worked at the plant and nearby sites.
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