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Service to be established for dioxin exposed

29 April 2008 Media Statement


Health service to be established for dioxin exposed people


A new health support service is being established for people who lived or worked near or at the former Ivon Watkins Dow agri-chemical plant in the New Plymouth suburb of Paritutu, Associate Minister of Health Damien O’Connor announced today.

Mr O'Connor said the government had considered an independent report on recommendations for a service for people in the area and has instructed the Ministry of Health to work with district health boards to implement the service in lines with the recommendations.

Mr O’Connor said the foundation of the health support service is a free annual check-up with a GP or practice nurse. He said as well as checking on their health and providing advice on staying healthy, the annual check is a good opportunity to provide quality health advice and where appropriate, referral to other services.

These may include medical advice on genetic concerns, referral to primary mental health services, serum dioxin testing (under limited circumstances) and nutrition, exercise and smoking cessation advice.

Mr O'Connor said the government acknowledges that there is now sufficient evidence that some people living in these areas at these times may potentially have been exposed to harm.

"While the degree of harm is highly uncertain; it is better to act now to provide some additional help to those who may have been affected.

“Dioxin exposure is an area which often attracts intense debate and there are many conflicting studies and views on the human consequences. That debate is likely to continue but it should not prevent us from doing what we can to help now, based on what we now know."

The Ministry of Health, the Taranaki District Health Board, and health service providers will be working together to implement the service by 1 July 2008. The Ministry will be working with district health boards in other parts of the country so that similar services will be available for eligible people who now live elsewhere.

Access to the support service would be through individual application to the Ministry of Health and demonstrating individuals had lived or worked in the area during times of high exposure. Anyone who lived, worked or went to school within 1200 metres downwind (to the east or south) of the plant for one year between 1962 and 1969 or for five years between 1970 and 1987 is eligible for the service.

Individuals wanting further information can contact the Ministry of Health on 0800 288 588.

ENDS

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