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Greens Questions Government's Dioxin Position

Greens Questions Government's Dioxin Negotiation Position

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today questioned the position of the New Zealand Government in international negotiations on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as dioxin.

Dioxins are cancer-causing organochlorine chemicals that bio-accumulate in animals and humans and are extremely difficult to break down.

Ms Fitzsimons said she was concerned that New Zealand was refusing to support the goal of 'eliminating' dioxins at a UN Convention on POPs and was instead supporting weaker measures such as the 'reduction' of dioxins.

Dioxins are the only chemicals in the Treaty that are not deliberately produced, but are accidental contaminants of many manufacturing and combustion processes where chlorine is involved. Elimination of other organochlorines will also help get rid of dioxins which often contaminate them.

"Most other countries are agreeing to the goal of eliminating dioxins, even though absolute elimination may not be technically feasible. It's the goal that matters. New Zealand's position is that there is a safe level of everything and that polluting up to those levels is OK," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"We see this policy coming through in the Government position on spraydrift, on air pollution from vehicle emissions, and now on dioxins. The Green Party is very worried about this position. It is increasingly at variance with international views that there is no safe level for some chemicals and that the target should be elimination, even if that is never quite reached," she said.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) recently revealed that: "For cancer [USEPA] estimates that the risks for the general population based on dioxin exposure could be as high as the range of a 1 in 100 to 1 in 1000 increased chance of experiencing cancer related to dioxin exposure".

"While we accept that eliminating all dioxins may not technically be possible, the Greens believe the level of achievement depends on how high you set your sights. Dioxins are killers and the international goal should be to completely eliminate them."

Ms Fitzsimons will be asking Oral Question number 12 in parliament this afternoon on this issue after written questions have failed to provide adequate answers. For reference see Oral Question 016680.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: 04 470 6661, 025 586 068; Jonathan Hill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 440 090

A global and legally binding convention for the elimination of POPs is currently being negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This is a result of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. UNEP has since concluded "..that immediate international action should be initiated to protect human health and the environment through measures which will reduce/and/or eliminate the emissions and discharges of the 12 persistent organic pollutants [POPs]..."


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