Delay and deny until you die still Govt approach to dioxin

24 Oct 2006

The official response to claims in a TV3 documentary that significant mistakes were made in a key study of dioxin contamination in New Plymouth has so far been predictable and grossly inadequate, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

“So far, all we have heard is that the Ministry of Health will ‘look into’ the claims. After decades of denying and covering-up this issue, the public can have no confidence in the Ministry of Health objectively investigating itself. Any follow-up study now undertaken must be totally independent,” Ms Kedgley says.

“We also need a formal apology from the Government for successive Governments’ roles in systematically downplaying the health consequences of living near a dioxin plant, just as it apologised to veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam.”

A forensic scientist hired by TV3 reviewed the earlier Ministry of Health report into dioxin contamination in New Plymouth. He found that ill-defined parameters, muddled reporting of facts and failure to show peer reviewers the original data downplayed the true extent of the dioxin contamination problem.

“Four years ago, Don Mathieson, Public Health Director at the Ministry of Health, promised residents at a community meeting in New Plymouth that if there was proof that Ivon Watkins Dow caused the problem, the Government would seek recompense and sue the company. It is time for the Government to make good on that promise,” Ms Kedgley says.

“There is now irrefutable evidence that Dow knew 2-4-5-T was seriously contaminated with dioxin and could cause significant adverse health effects, yet it continued to use the chemical until 1987. Two reports by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research have found that people who lived near the Ivon Watkins Down plant between 1962 and 1987 had levels of dioxin in their bodies as high as some Vietnamese who were sprayed with Agent Orange, making contamination in New Plymouth one of the worst examples of dioxin contamination anywhere in the world.

“The Green Party is calling for the Government to undertake a six-point programme of response to this problem: a formal apology, legal action against the parent Dow Chemical company, a national register of current and former Paritutu residence with symptoms of dioxin poisoning, free healthcare and serum test for people on the register (and their children), an inter-generational study of the health effects independent of the Ministry of Health, and accident compensation to all former Dow employees who suffer health effects as a consequence of their work,” Ms Kedgley says.

24 Oct 2006 | Press Release | NEWS-2006-M10-24-002 | greens.org.nz
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