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Govt Must Take Responsibility For Dioxin Exposure

Government Must Finally Take Responsibility For Dioxin Exposure

Green MP Sue Kedgley today said it is finally time for the Government to take responsibility for the fact that over many years thousands of New Zealanders have been exposed to unacceptably high levels of dioxin.

"Successive Government's have turned a blind eye to industrial activities that produce dioxins and have allowed heavily polluting industries such as timber mills and chemical factories to operate in an almost unregulated fashion - even after being warned of the dangers of dioxins," said Ms Kedgley.

"When concerns were first raised about the possible health effects of exposure to dioxins, Governments repeatedly assured New Zealanders that there were no adverse health effects from exposure to low levels of dioxins."

Ms Kedgley said that having put the health of thousands of New Zealanders at risk through previous neglect - and having falsely assured people that there was no health risk from exposure to dioxins - the Government now had to accept responsibility for dioxin related illnesses.

"The Government needs to face up to the compensation issue for all New Zealander workers, such as timber workers and Vietnam Vets, who were occupationally exposed to unacceptably high levels of dioxin, if they are shown to have suffered adverse health effects as a result," she said.

"Residents near chemical plants, such as those in the residential suburb of Paritutu in New Plymouth, should also be eligible for compensation if they are found to have an unacceptably high dioxin body burden and to have suffered adverse health effects as a consequence."

Ms Kedgley said the first step had to be an adequate testing programme to find out the contaminants that people had been exposed to and the level of dioxins remaining in their bodies.

Ms Kedgley said while she welcomed the Government's intention to blood test residents who lived near the former Ivon Watkins Dow Factory and to study the health of timber workers who were exposed to PCP's, additional testing on soil and for health effects needed to be done urgently.

Sue will be speaking on the issue of dioxins in Parliament's General Debate (slot 3) this afternoon - speech available on request

Sue Kedgley MP: 04 470 6728, 025 270 9088 Jonathan Hill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 440 090

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