Dominion Post: 29/04/2008
|This is the opinion of this blog
Victims of dioxin poisoning who lived and worked in the shadow of the Ivon Watkins Dow agri-chemical plant in New Plymouth say the Government’s offer of a free annual health check is “too little too late”.
Associate Health Minister Damien O’Connor announced last night that the Government had endorsed independent recommendations for a health support service for people exposed to dioxin.
It has been three years since tests confirmed what many residents in the suburb of Paritutu already knew – that they had been exposed to dangerous levels of the cancer-causing chemical. The Health Ministry has acknowledged the exposure may have resulted in a 10 per cent increase in cancer deaths in the area.
Though the degree of harm was “highly uncertain”, the Government had decided to do “what we can to help now, based on what we now know”, Mr O’Connor said.
The plan, announced at a public meeting in New Plymouth last night, includes a free annual check-up, medical advice on genetic concerns, referral to primary mental health services, serum dioxin testing and nutrition, exercise and smoking cessation advice. It is to start on July 1 and will cost about $750,000 a year.
Dioxin Investigation Network spokesman Andrew Gibbs said it was a “slap in the face” to those who had been waiting almost 40 years for justice.
“It’s 39 years after the exposure, and 22 years since they knew about it.”
The service makes no provision for children and grandchildren of those affected, which has angered victims. They have not ruled out seeking compensation.
The Government, which subsidised the chemical by 50 per cent from 1969, had failed to act because of its “conflict of interest”, Mr Gibbs said. “New Zealand made a lot of money out of these chemicals … but these people are left bearing the cost of that.”
Noel Scouller, who lived next to the factory between 1974 and 1983, says three of his children have had cancer, the fourth has a serious heart condition, and he suffers a crippling nerve disorder.
“We have been poisoned and no one in authority seems to care.”
Deputy director of public health Fran McGrath said the Government was not considering compensation nor an apology.
The ministry’s advice was that there was “no evidence Dow acted outside the law or standards of the time”.
Nor was there evidence that dioxin’s carcinogenic effects were intergenerational. fn01
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
Anyone who lived, worked or went to school within 1200 metres downwind (to the east or south) of the Ivon Watkins Dow plant for at least one year between 1962 and 1969 or five years between 1970 and 1987.
Blog Editors Comments:
fn01: On Both accounts this statement has been proven to incorrect and in fact is the opposite