Dioxin helpline beset by calls

Sep 28, 2004

Six hundred calls have been made to a Ministry of Health helpline following revelations of high levels of dioxin in long-term Paritutu residents.

The ministry revealed this month that 24 people in an interim study had blood levels three times higher than the average New Zealander.

The levels could mean a 10 per cent increase in cancer deaths.

The 24 lived next to the Ivon Watkins-Dow plant that manufactured powerful herbicides, and produced dioxin as a byproduct.

The ministry said yesterday that Government agencies were working to address people’s concerns.

To date, 616 calls had been made to the 0800 555-567 helpline set up to provide information.

Of the 236 spoken to by operators, 10 per cent were current residents in Paritutu, 46 per cent were former residents of the suburb, 13 per cent were Dow workers, 17 per cent were other users of 2,4,5-T (such as farmers), 4 per cent were interested in PCB exposures and 10 per cent were listed as others.

About 80 of the callers had indicated they wanted to talk personally to public health service officers.

But the Department of Labour’s Occupational Safety and Health division and ACC both said each had been contacted by only five workers.

OSH national operations manager Mike Cosman advised past and present IWD workers with health concerns to visit their doctor who could then, if necessary, refer any concerns on to a Department of Labour doctor to follow up any workplace issues.

But former IWD worker Neil Herdson, of New Plymouth, said he was sceptical about the Government’s promises to help workers. “The Health Department have been looking at doing health surveys since 1976,” he said.

NZPA | nzherald.co.nz  | Sep 28, 2004
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