13 March 2006
University of Otago, New Zealand:
A General Mortality Study completed by University of Otago for Dow AgroSciences New Zealand Limited has shown no increase in cancer among longer term workers at the company’s manufacturing site in New Plymouth, which produced the herbicide 2,4,5-T until 1988.
The study’s initial findings show that the level and causes of mortality among people who worked at the site for more than three months are not statistically different from the rest of the New Zealand population.
Dr David McBride
Principal Investigator Dr David McBride of University of Otago’s Department of Preventive and Social Medicine said that while the study does not assess individual workplace exposure it provides good data to show that former workers at the New Plymouth facility have very similar mortality outcomes to the general population.
“We have traced over 1,700 people who worked at New Plymouth from 1969 to 2001, and identified those who have died,” he said.”Across all causes of death, the rates are consistent with the rest of New Zealand,” he said, “with males slightly higher than expected while females slightly less than expected.” “Similarly, cancer rates overall are consistent with rest of New Zealand.” Dr McBride said that for males who worked at the site for less than three months the death rates for all causes are slightly higher than the general population.
“This short term worker effect is a common phenomenon across all industries around the world and is considered to reflect to life style factors such as smoking and alcohol-related illness,” he said. “Our new research confirms this effect from previous studies in New Zealand.” Dr McBride said the initial findings of the Otago research do not indicate anything of concern which stands out at this stage, and workers should find this reassuring.
“The focus now is to proceed to the next phase of the research, which will assess workplace exposures through analysing blood from former workers for the presence of dioxin. This will enable us to determine whether there is any relationship between workplace exposure to dioxin and long term health effects.”
He said the current serum analysis and exposure study is planned to be completed by the end of 2006.
The research work being undertaken by the University of Otago is funded by Dow AgroSciences NZ Limited.
13 March 2006 | Media Release | NEWS-2006-M03-13-001