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Toxic Gas Generation From Sheepskin

Toxic Gas Generation From Sheepskin

T J Sprott OBE 10 Combes Road
MSc PhD FNZIC Remuera
Consulting Chemist Auckland 5
Forensic Scientist NEW ZEALAND

Phone & Fax

25 August 2000



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Following is a media release (which I sent to you earlier this week) regarding Canadian research which confirms highly toxic gas generation from sheepskins. The Ministry of Health has not provided any substantive response to my media release.

One orthodox cot death researcher told a Herald reporter that the toxicity of the gases is not known. Wrong. As Dr M G Fitzpatrick (a highly qualified environmental scientist) stated in a report commissioned by the New Zealand Cot Death Association, these gases are "among the most toxic and deadly compounds known to humanity".

At a meeting at the Ministry of Health on 11 August 2000, I learned that Dr Pat Tuohy (Chief Advisor for Child & Youth Health) did not tell the Ministry that the Canadian research had been reported at the SIDS 2000 Conference. Yet he had been present at the Conference session concerned.

Dr Tuohy himself supplied one of the sheepskins which was tested in the Canadian research (he was National Paediatrician for Plunket at the time). He supplied it to me for testing purposes, and he knew that a cot death had occurred on that sheepskin.

Now the Ministry of Health is refusing to acknowledge the validity of this Canadian research.

Is Dr Tuohy, the Ministry of Health's Chief Advisor on Child Health, seriously suggesting that -

1 He provided for testing purposes a sample of sheepskin on which a baby had died of cot death; and

2 He knows that that sample of sheepskin was tested for gas generation; and

3 He knows that it generated highly toxic gas; BUT

4 It's OK for New Zealand parents to put babies down to sleep on sheepskins?

In my opinion, Dr Tuohy should resign.



23 August 2000



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Dr Jim Sprott has criticised the Ministry of Health for failing to inform the public about research reported earlier this year which proves the generation of highly toxic gases from sheepskin. Sheepskin is commonly used as baby bedding.

At the SIDS 2000 Conference held in Auckland in February, a Canadian scientist presented conclusive proof of toxic gas generation from New Zealand sheepskin. The presentation was attended by Dr Pat Tuohy, Chief Advisor for Child and Youth Health at the Ministry of Health.

The gases concerned are trimethylarsine (which is generated from compounds of arsenic in sheepskin) and trimethylstibine (which is generated from compounds of antimony in sheepskin). These are among the most toxic gases and can kill babies at very low concentrations.

"I've been telling parents for years not to use sheepskins as baby bedding," said Dr Sprott. "The Canadian research has provided incontrovertible proof of highly toxic gas generation from sheepskin, but the Ministry of Health has sat on the finding for more than six months. One wonders how many babies have died of cot death on sheepskins in the meantime."

"Dr Tuohy was present at the SIDS 2000 Conference when this gas generation was reported, but he has failed to tell New Zealand parents about this crucial scientific finding."

"In actual fact, Dr Tuohy himself supplied the sheepskin which was tested in the Canadian research," said Dr Sprott, "and he knew that a baby had died of cot death on that sheepskin."

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Contact: Dr Pat Tuohy Chief Advisor, Child & Youth Health Ministry of Health Phone: 04-4962000 (work) e-mail:

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