Greens question independence of dioxin reviewer

Oct 27, 2006

Green MP Sue Kedgley is questioning the independence of a scientist appointed to review a Health Ministry dioxin poisoning report, which critics say is seriously flawed.

Health Minister Pete Hodgson yesterday said a scientist at the University of California at Berkely, Dr Allan Smith, would review questions raised by forensic accountant John Leonard about the Health Ministry report on a New Plymouth chemical plant.

Ms Kedgley today said she did not know a lot about Dr Smith, other than he was a New Zealander who had done work for the Government before and had links to senior figures at the ministry.

She said an internet search had brought up Dr Smith’s name alongside Deputy Director General of Public Health Don Matheson, one of the ministry report’s authors and a person who had peer reviewed the report at a recent conference.

“I think it’s absolutely vital for the credibility of this review that the person is genuinely independent and has no links with everything that happened, or with the Ministry of Health,” she said on National Radio.

“If it’s going to have credibility. If the locals are going to accept this as a definitive finding we need somebody who is totally independent.”

In a TV3 documentary shown on Monday night, Mr Leonard said high levels of dioxin contamination at the Ivon Watkins-Dow factory in Paritutu were obscured by poor methodology in last year’s Ministry of Health report.

Ivon Watkins-Dow, which is now called DowAgro Sciences, made the herbicide 245T from 1962 to 1987. A by-product of manufacturing it was TCDD, a type of dioxin.

Dioxins are chemicals that can cause birth defects, diabetes and some rare forms of cancer.

Mr Hodgson yesterday said the review would focus on whether Mr Leonard’s appraisal of the report was accurate.

The ministry said it stood by last year’s report, carried out by Environmental Science and Research.

ESR general manager of environmental health, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter, said the study methodology and findings were reviewed by four scientists, regarded as leaders in their field and it was confident in the report.

ESR expected to have the independent reviews, which will look at the ESR study and Mr Leonard’s findings, completed within two weeks, the Ministry said.

NZPA | Oct 27, 2006 | NEWS-2006-M10-27-001nzherald.co.nz

 

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