GARY GREEN estimates he’s been in and out of hospital 50 times in the past two years.
During that time, the now-unemployed 50-year-old has had two mystery strokes, and been forced to leave
work and sell his home because he could no longer pay his mortgage.
His symptoms include a range of unexplained neurological, gastric, endocrine and immune system breakdowns.
“It’s not left much unturned,” he told the Taranaki Daily News yesterday from his bed in St John of God Hospital in Western Australia’s capital, Perth. He has been there since Saturday with bleeding from his bowel.
It wasn’t until his sister, Sue Green, who lives in Lepperton, last year told him of the extensive Ministry of Health investigation into the production of 2,4,5-T and its toxic dioxin side-product, at Ivon Watkins Dow in New Plymouth, that he put two and two together.
Mr Green worked as a sales manager for Steel and Tube on Centennial Drive, next to the chemical plant, for three years between 1985 and 1988.
“I was there when the pressure disc (at IWD’s trichlorophenol plant in April 1986) failed and spewed raw dioxin in the air,” Mr Green said.
An investigation at the time found 150mg of dioxin escaped, but that there were no harmful effects.
However, he recalls experiencing a strange taste in his mouth that day, which sometimes returns.
In 1988, Mr Green and his family headed across the Tasman where he worked for Steel and Tube’s parent company, Tubemakers, as a project manager and later as an account manager for mining companies in Western Australia.
During that time he believes there was “not a chance” he was exposed to dioxin.
“I ended up so sick, my doctor told me to stop work in 2003 because, after two strokes, I’ve been left with double vision.”
Once alerted by his sister, he talked his puzzled Perth doctors into sending a blood test for analysis in New Zealand, looking for dioxin.
It was found his dioxin levels were 61 ppt (parts per trillion), five times higher than the 20ppt maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation for a lifetime exposure.
“So for that short period of time (when he worked at Steel and Tube) I got a truckload of crap in my system.”
Sue Green said: “There’s no other explanation for my brother being the way he is. I feel so sorry for him. He’s had every test known to man.”
He was now hopeful ACC would cover his case. He applied for cover last September and had recently been told his case was before ACC’s toxicology committee.
“I assume I have a valid claim. I should hear in the middle of April.
“Basically, I’ve lost 20 years of my working life. My wife is pretty stressed. She has to stay home to look after me and make sure I’m OK. It’s pretty frightening. People here have just put it in the too-hard basket.”
Information he has read about dioxin states the known carcinogen can hit the neurological and endocrine system, and it hits people randomly and without explanation. “It’s like a loaded gun and no one knows where the smoke’s going to come from.”
Yesterday, campaigner Andrew Gibbs, of Cepra (Chemically Exposed Paritutu Residents Association), said Mr Green’s dioxin tests showed he had levels nine times higher than the background levels in adults of a similar age.
There were other workers, such as the Shell BP Todd, power station and port workers and those living in the single men’s camp, who had also been at risk during the high exposure era in the 1960s and 70s, he said.
“But they have all been left out of the studies. It’s time the Government got off its arse and provided real effective health care for them — as the Taranaki District Health Board has asked.”
An ACC official said there were six claimants for ACC cover under investigation.
Since last year, four former IWD workers have had their claims accepted for dioxin related illnesses.
By HUMPHREYS, Lyn | 2006-03-27 | Daily News Taranaki | NEWS-2006-M03-27-001