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WHO Advice Sought On Dioxin Review

WHO Advice Sought

The World Health Organization (WHO) will be asked to recommend an additional expert to independently review ESR's 2005 report on dioxin exposure in Paritutu.

Deputy Director General of Health (Public Health) Dr Don Matheson said the Ministry of Health will approach the WHO today seeking advice about appointing an additional reviewer. The additional reviewer will be provided, on a confidential basis, with the individual anonymised serum results of the 52 residents that participated in the study.

"We believe that the original report on dioxin exposure in Paritutu was of a high, international standard," Dr Matheson said. "It would have been very unusual to provide peer reviewers of that report with individual serum results. The reviewers were provided with analysed anonymised data from the individual data tables in line with normal accepted practice.

"However, given the public concern about the integrity of this process the Ministry has taken these steps to reassure former Paritutu residents and the wider New Zealand public.

The Ministry intends to complete the process promptly. "We believe the most appropriate way to maintain public confidence is to make the overall process as transparent as possible and to complete it quickly.

However, we do have some concern that the respected scientists involved in preparing the report and in reviewing it have endured questions about their expertise and integrity in the past week and I hope appointing an additional reviewer will lead to at least a temporary respite for them."

Dr Matheson said the Institute of Environmental and Science and Research (ESR) will continue with their own peer review of their report by Professor Allan Smith.

"Professor Smith is a world-leader in dioxin research and his status as an epidemiologist at one of America's leading universities gives him both the expertise and the necessary independence to review this report. The questioning of his scientific integrity in recent days is regrettable."

The Ministry confirms that the original peer reviewers of the 2005 Paritutu Serum Dioxin Report did not receive individualised data.

Initial verbal advice from ESR was that peer reviewers received analysed anonymised individual data. This advice was provided to the Minister of Health.

However, it has been subsequently confirmed that the peer reviewers received anonymised analysed data taken from the individual data.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed with the principal author of the report, now working in Europe, that reviewers were not provided with the individualised data. The principal author has also confirmed the peer reviewers did not request individualised data in order to complete their peer review.

The Ministry has now requested ESR provide whatever necessary data held by ESR in relation to the 2005 study, on a confidential basis, to its next round of peer review and to provide access to any information pertinent to answering the question being raised.

The Ministry has also requested that ESR seek additional review from an independent statistician.


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