26 July 2007
Specialist health support services must be put in place in New Plymouth for all those people exposed to dioxin.
This was the all-pervading message from about 80 people who vented their anger, shared stories of exposure and their worries at a public meeting at the Plymouth International last night in front of television cameras and other news media.
The Government’s 2005 blood serum study found Paritutu’s long-term residents were exposed to airborne dioxin emissions between 1962 and 1987 when IWD manufactured the herbicide 2,4,5-T at the Paritutu plant.
The meeting, run by consultants Allen and Clarke on behalf of the Ministry of Health, was to gather feedback from the community on what type of health services should be developed.
Chemically Exposed Paritutu Residents Association (Cepra) spokesman Andrew Gibbs, who has championed the Paritutu cause, was applauded when he stood to speak. He asked who and what had extended the years of exposure.
Allen and Clarke project manager Matthew Allen replied the years were the “best guess” from members of the Government’s organochlorines advisory group. It was not an exact science, he said.
Mr Gibbs said by extending the years, the exposure levels would have been five times higher than the years that had been included in the residents’ serum tests and would therefore result in much higher percentages of cancer.
He accused Minister of Health Pete Hodgson of lying. As a result, both the serum tests and birth defects, which peaked in 1968, had been fraudulently manipulated.
The situation bordered on the criminal, Mr Gibbs said.
“The Government should have addressed this before this consultation. Where is the accountability?”
The issue was whether there could be good faith bargaining with the Government after people had been misled.
“The Government has had evidence (of dioxin exposure) since 1986. It is clear they have covered it up. How can we trust them?” he asked Mr Allen said it was understandable frustrations had gone back decades but promised they would be addressed.
Earlier he told the meeting his group had been given “a very strong brief” from the ministry that Paritutu people had been exposed to dioxin, that it did cause harm and that levels of cancer of up to 10 per cent and other health consequences could be expected.
Because of this, the ministry wanted the consultation carried out as fast as possible and health support services offered to alleviate concerns within the community, Mr Allen said.
Feedback showed there was a huge concern among people about the health of future generations and universal support for regular health check-ups, the need for a dedicated clinic, better information and research, Mr Allen said.
The initial focus had been for Paritutu residents, but had been widened to include IWD workers, other workers, Vietnam veterans, agricultural and timber workers.
Two Vietnam vets accused the Government of selling Paritutu people short. They had not just been exposed to dioxins but had lived in a toxic environment.
One woman agreed a lot of people had suffered a lot of grief. She had a daughter with birth defects. “There’s a lot of animosity here.”
Another Cepra member said the taxpayer should not be paying for the specialist health services. It should be Dow and the Taranaki Regional Council, which had known about the toxins, which should pay.
Several said they were still waiting for a Government apology for the exposure.
One man, who said he would have been exposed 12 hours a day at his work, urged people to focus on health services.
26 July 2007 | LYN HUMPHREYS | NEWS-2007-M07-26-001
Translation required: See “The Ministry of Health is offering a major health support programme to Taranaki residents who have an increased risk of cancer after exposure to high dioxin levels from a herbicide plant.”
One Free GP visit and then you are slotted into the Public Health System Just Like all NZ Citizens and join the LONG Cue…