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Government agencies addresing Paritutu concerns

Government agencies addresing Paritutu concerns

27 September 2004

Government agencies continue to work together to ensure the people of Paritutu including former Ivon Watkins Dow, now Dow Agrosciences (NZ) Ltd, workers receive the support they need and dioxin levels in the environment remain low.

This follows the release of an interim report this month showing some long term Paritutu residents had a higher than normal level of dioxin in their blood, believed to be from breathing in fumes or dust originating from the Dow plant. Dr Doug Lush, Acting Director of Public Health, emphasised that the elevated levels were found in people who had lived close to the plant for twenty or more years between 1962 and 1987. Exposure stopped in 1987 and Paritutu is now as safe as anywhere else in New Zealand.

Since the report's release, the Taranaki Medical Officer of Health, Dr Patrick O'Connor and Dr Lush have been meeting with individuals to discuss their concerns.

To date 565 calls have been made to the 0800 555 567 Ministry helpline set up to provide people with information. Around 80 of those people have indicated they will talk with their local Public Health Service. The Ministry of Health website with information on dioxins has also been a popular source of information (www.moh.govt.nz/dioxins).

While Dow stopped producing the herbicide 245T, which contained dioxins, in 1987, OSH is working with the company to identify any staff concerns. OSH is also advising past and present workers with health concerns to visit their doctor who can then refer health concerns to the Department of Labour’s doctor to follow up any workplace issues if necessary. OSH's National Operations Manager, Mike Cosman says "Only five workers have contacted OSH with concerns since the release of the Ministry of Health study. Historically, the Department of Labour has not received any complaints concerning workplace chemical exposure from workers or unions associated with Dow."

ACC has set up a fast track process to deal with claims from Dow workers who think they may have an illness related to elevated levels of dioxins as a result of working at the plant.

In order for cover to be accepted for these claims, a number of criteria have to be met. They include:

· A personal injury has been suffered as the result of exposure; and · That exposure occurred in the workplace.

So far ACC has received five enquiries. Employee claims will be managed by ACC Workwise. ACC Workwise will arrange for any further information needed to be provided by the claimant, his or her employer and/or his or her general practitioner. The Workwise office will also arrange for an examination of the claimant, if necessary.

Sue Powell from the Ministry for the Environment says it is important to reiterate that Paritutu is a safe place to live. "The Taranaki Regional Council and Ministry for the Environment have investigated suspected waste dumps, soil in residential areas, and shellfish and marine life along the coast. The results of all the tests identify that levels are well within international guidelines for health protection.

"Furthermore the interim report found eating home grown fruit and vegetables or eggs from home reared chickens was not linked to raised levels of dioxins."

Meanwhile the second part of the Ministry of Health study is underway with ESR contacting the next round of participants. The study is due to be completed in five or six month's time.

The Ministry for the Environment is developing a National Implementation Plan to minimise current and future exposures to dioxins and other persistent organochlorine pollutants. The National Environmental Standard for Air Quality has been adopted recently to reduce any emissions of dioxins (and other air pollutants) to the air throughout New Zealand. Work is underway on looking at soil guideline levels and the Ministry for the Environment has a fund to assist regional councils investigate and clean up contaminated sites.

ENDS


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