Health Ministry to probe dioxin ‘errors’

Oct 24, 2006 

The Ministry of Health will today ask for a copy of findings which suggest its report last year into dioxin levels at a New Plymouth chemical plant contained significant mistakes.

In a TV3 documentary last night, forensic accountant John Leonard said high levels of dioxin contamination at the Ivon Watkins-Dow factory in the suburb of Paritutu were obscured by poor methodology in the report.

Health Minister Pete Hodgson

Health Minister Pete Hodgson said a review of the original report was likely. “I think it’s inevitable that … questions have been raised that need to be answered,” he said.

It’s clear that there’s room for doubt so we better have another look at it and I need to satisfy myself that we’ve done it right and if we haven’t we do it again.

Ministry spokesman Peter Abernethy said the ministry would ask TV3 for a copy of its assessment of the report today.

The ministry would wait until it had seen the assessment before taking further action, Mr Abernethy said. Ivon Watkins-Dow, which is now called Dow AgroSciences, made the herbicide 245T from 1962 to 1987. A byproduct of manufacturing 245T was TCDD, a type of dioxin.

Dioxins are a family of chemicals which can cause birth defects, diabetes, endometriosis and some rare forms of cancer. All humans are exposed to dioxin in tiny amounts through food consumption, and products manufactured with plastics and bleaches.

Green Party health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley said: “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.

“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.”

Dioxin campaigner Andrew Gibbs told Radio New Zealand this morning the ministry was not screening the right people to check if their dioxin levels were higher than normal. “They’ve spent a heck of a lot more doing studies to reassure the unaffected… current residents who presented no evidence of exposure and, really, shouldn’t we be looking at the people who were exposed?

Paritutu residents who lived near the plant at the time should be tested for health problems associated with exposure, and genetic damage, Mr Gibbs said. Health Minister Pete Hodgson said in April 2005 the Government had advice that suing Dow AgroSciences over dioxin exposure would almost certainly fail.

Dixinnz PDF: Copy | Original Source | NZ HERALD | Oct 24, 2006
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