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Assistance to Paritutu victims too little too late

EMBARGOED UNTIL 7PM 29 April 2008

Health Assistance to Paritutu victims too little, too late


The Green Party says the free annual health check-ups offered to Paritutu residents exposed to dioxin from the Ivon Watkins Dow chemical plant is a bit better than nothing, but seriously questions why it has taken so long and comes without the hint of an apology.

"It's been three years since tests confirmed what many Paritutu residents already knew - that they were exposed to the dangerous chemical dioxin and consequently have dioxin levels significantly above those of the general New Zealand population. Even the Ministry of Health has acknowledged this may result in an up to 10 percent increase above the national cancer mortality rate," Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"After decades of denial from the Government I am pleased that some of those who lived near the Ivon Watkins Dow chemical plant while it was making dioxin will be offered a health assessment, and free annual follow-up visits. However, residents may also need priority access to free specialist services, as many have a range of health problems that need specialist assistance, not just annual check-ups."

Ms Kedgley is pleased affected residents will be offered free blood serum and genetic tests, but is concerned they won't be given priority for specialist follow up services, as Vietnam veterans who suffer from dioxin poisoning get. Nor will their children be offered these services.

"Affected residents should be offered the same priority specialist treatment as is offered to Vietnam veterans affected by dioxin-based Agent Orange. And so too should their children."

Ms Kedgley says workers found to have elevated dioxin levels should immediately be offered ACC compensation for workplace injury, without having to go through a protracted process to formally prove it. And she can't understand why the Government refuses to apologise to local residents for years of denial and cover-up over the health effects they have endured, or to seek compensation for victims from Dow.

"The Government has a particular responsibility to compensate victims of dioxin poisoning that resulted from 2,4,5-T, as for many years it actively encouraged the herbicide's manufacture and gave a 50 percent subsidy for its use.

"It doesn't take a lot to say 'sorry', but it would mean a lot to affected residents who had suffered enormous stress and ill health as a result of three decades of denial of this environmental disaster. Until the government apologises for this sorry saga, there will be no closure."

ENDS

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