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Proposed dioxin standard to reduce health risk

11 October 2001

Proposed dioxin standard to reduce health risk

Landfill fires and the 'backyard burning' of such rubbish as plastics and treated timber would be banned under a proposed national environment standard to reduce the amount of dioxins released into the environment. The standard would also set a limit on dioxin emissions from waste incinerators.

The Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, said changing the way New Zealand burnt certain wastes would make a big difference in determining our future health risk from dioxin.

The introduction of a national environment standard is recommended in a Ministry for the Environment report released today ƒ{ 'An Action Plan for Reducing Discharges of Dioxin to Air'.

"Dioxin is highly toxic and almost impossible to remove from the environment once released. A key step in reducing health risks from dioxin is to cut back on the amount we¡¦re releasing," Marian Hobbs said.

The plan looks at the sources of dioxin released to air and recommends reducing these where possible. It also proposes a limit on dioxin emissions to air from waste incinerators.

"It's important that we do what we can to reduce our exposure to dioxin. In this case, everybody can do their bit by simply not burning plastic and treated timber," Marian Hobbs said.

While the health risk from dioxin in New Zealand was low compared with other countries, there was strong evidence linking high levels of dioxin to serious health effects. The Government wanted to take action now to protect future generations.

Market research indicated that 93 percent of respondents would be prepared personally to stop burning household waste if this helped to protect the health of their families. About 67 percent of respondents also supported a ban on the backyard burning of certain types of waste.

Marian Hobbs said the Government would be asking all New Zealanders to support the proposed changes.

"We cannot be complacent. The actions we take now will reduce dioxin exposures for our children and our children¡¦s children," she said.

The national environment standard (NES) proposed in the Action Plan is subject to Government approval and the passing of the RMA Amendment Bill. The Government is seeking public comment on the Action Plan before the end of January 2002.

"What we are proposing is pragmatic, achievable and preventive. But we wish to hear from as many individuals and organisations as possible," Marian Hobbs said.

The Action Plan can be seen and submissions made on a Ministry for the Environment interactive website ƒ{ www.dioxinplan.mfe.govt.nz.

NB: a comprehensive media pack has been sent to most media. If you have not received a pack and would like one, please contact Karl Ferguson at the Ministry for the Environment


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