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Kedgley wants free treatment for dioxin victims

10 September, 2004

Kedgley wants free treatment for dioxin victims

Green MP Sue Kedgley says the Dow corporation must eventually be made to pay for the harm caused by dioxin emissions from its New Plymouth plant, but in the meantime the Government should be making free medical treatment available to the victims.

"With Dow still in denial mode, the legal battle for compensation could take years," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Health spokesperson. "The Government should provide free medical treatment for residents who were exposed to dioxin poisoning from 245T as they do for Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange."

"We acknowledge that veterans were exposed to a toxic environment in Vietnam, and we provide medical treatment for a range of conditions that are associated with dioxin. The least we can offer the residents of Paritutu who lived in a similarly toxic environment is a similar level of free medical treatment."

Ms Kedgley repeated her call that the government should seek compensation from Dow for affected residents. "The taxpayer shouldn't be picking up this bill, it should be the company that caused the pollution. That's a basic principle of polluter pays."

However, Ms Kedgley said she had been disappointed by the reactions from both Dow and the Government.

"It is nonsensical to claim, as Dow has, that the elevated dioxin levels found in New Plymouth residents were safe, and that the levels would have to be much higher than in the study to show health effects," said Ms Kedgley. "If that's the level of their research, then I wouldn't buy any of their products.

"Even the Ministry of Health acknowledges that such high dioxin levels could cause up to three extra deaths from cancer in every 100 people. Is Dow suggesting that the death of 1-in-33 people from cancer is somehow acceptable or normal?

"It is obvious that the Government has spent weeks preparing a public relations campaign to try and reassure residents and downplay the results, when it should have been preparing an immediate assistance package to people still suffering the effects of dioxin poisoning."

Ms Kedgley said that instead of waiting several months for the next batch of tests the Government should be establishing a specialist medical unit in New Plymouth to help identify and treat the victims.

"The poisoning happened thirty years ago and many of the people poisoned by the Dow plant are now dead," said Ms Kedgley. "If the Government - and Dow - wait another thirty years to do anything, then there won't be a 'problem' left to deal with."

Ms Kedgley will be in New Plymouth on Monday (13th September) to meet with members of the Dioxin Action network and local residents.


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