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Dioxin deniers owe victims aid and an apology

9 September, 2004

Dioxin deniers owe victims aid and an apology

Green MP Sue Kedgley is calling for a dedicated medical centre to be established in New Plymouth to help identify and treat victims of the dioxin poisoning confirmed and sourced today to the Dow chemical plant in the city.

The Health Ministry report found that levels of TCDD, the most toxic form of dioxin, were on average three times higher in the subjects of the study than the national average, and in one case ten times higher. Ms Kedgley said levels would have been at least 16 times higher for people exposed at the time of peak production in the 1970s.

"Today's report lifts the lid on 30 years of denial by the chemical company and by government agencies," said Ms Kedgley. "How many lives could have been saved if Dow - and successive governments - had taken the warnings of locals and environmental campaigners seriously?"

Ms Kedgley called on the Government to adopt a three-pronged strategy to belatedly try and help those who continue to suffer the effects of dioxin poisoning:

* a publicity campaign to trace people who worked at, or lived near, the Dow factory in the 1960s and 1970s and test them for the presence of higher than average levels of dioxin; * the establishment of a medical facility in New Plymouth to assist by way of treatment and counselling people who have been exposed to contamination; * and immediate action to seek compensation from the Dow corporation for victims and their families.

"The Director of Public Health is on record as saying that if Dow was proven to have caused the problem, then the corporation would be expected to compensate victims," said Ms Kedgley.

"The Green Party fully endorses the principle of polluter pays and expects the Government to hold Dow to account for the adverse affects to the health of the workers and neighbours of its New Plymouth plant.

"Dow should also be ordered to stop all current activities at the plant involving the incineration and emission of toxic material until such time as an independent panel of scientific and medical experts rules it as safe beyond any reasonable doubt.

"For decades, chemical companies have been swearing blind that their products and processes are safe for people and the environment," said Ms Kedgley. "Three decades after the people of Paritutu started falling ill, those claims are being exposed.

"Many of the victims are dead and many of the survivors will have to live with illness and disability for the rest of their lives. An apology from Dow and from the Government will in no way recompense them and their families. But it would be a start."

ENDS

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