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Support in place following interim Paritutu report

Support in place following interim Paritutu report

Community support systems are being put in place in the New Plymouth town of Paritutu following the release of an interim report showing some residents have had higher-than-normal exposure to dioxins, says Associate Health Minister Damien O’Connor.

"This is going to be a very difficult time for people affected by this report," Mr O'Connor said. "Locals and former residents will have many questions about the study and what it means for them and their families. We're working closely with these people to inform and reassure them."

The interim report, released today, is part of an Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) study being carried out in response to community concerns about the former Ivon Watkin-Dow chemical plant in Paritutu.

Ivon Watkins-Dow manufactured the herbicide 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) from 1962 to 1987. Dioxin is a contaminant of this process.

The study is only part way through, with 24 people having been blood tested so far. Another similar-sized group will be tested shortly and the results of those tests are expected about the end of the year.

"The interim report shows 12 of the 24 tested were found to have higher levels of TCDD in their blood than the national average," said Mr O'Connor. "Despite numerous studies over the years, it's still unclear what health effects may be linked to dioxin exposure."

Those deemed more at risk of exposure are those who lived within a one-kilometer radius of the factory for more than 20 years between 1962 and 1987. However, the study to date also provides reassurance that living in Paritutu now is just as safe as living in any other part of the country.

Measures being put in place to assist the community following today's announcement include: An 0800 helpline (0800555567), for concerned people. The Ministry of Health and the Taranaki DHB will establish an office in the area where people who think they may have been exposed can get assistance and discuss their concerns with a medical officer of health. A comprehensive website detailing the study and explaining the interim results – http://www.moh.govt.nz/dioxins

Also, information is being sent out to GPs nationwide, so they're able to assist people with concerns no matter where they are in the country.

Mr O’Connor said the study had to be fully completed before determinations could be made about what to do next.

"I'm going to ensure that the Ministry of Health, along with the Taranaki District Health Board and other relevant agencies, works with the community to establish what ongoing support and information is required.

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