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Conference to reveal solutions to pollution

Conference to reveal solutions to pollution

Chemicals that mimic female hormones, toxic factory waste and the legacy of agricultural sprays are just some of the many issues to be examined at a major international conference on pollution in Christchurch next week.

The SETAC Asia-Pacific / ASE Conference 2003 will bring together hundreds of scientists from 30 countries for more than 300 presentations. The theme is 'Solutions to Pollution', with discussions on research and clean-up options for different types of contamination. Landcare Research and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) are major sponsors.

Landcare Research scientist Dr Louis Tremblay is the conference chair. "Some may think it odd that New Zealand, with its clean, green image, should host such a conference," Dr Tremblay says. "However, New Zealand faces major environmental challenges through increasing urbanisation and waste generation.

"Also, our pollution tends to stem from multiple sources and be diffused over a wide area. This makes it more difficult to intercept and remedy."

NIWA scientist Dr Chris Hickey is the president of the Asia-Pacific branch of the 5,000 strong SETAC organisation (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry). Dr Hickey says the regional and global problems to be discussed relate strongly to New Zealand's problems.

"Chemicals with estrogen-like effects are accumulating in our waterways, stemming mainly from contraceptive pill use, agricultural chemicals and packaging components.

"Several papers will be presented on the effects of these feminising chemicals on aquatic life and on humans," Dr Hickey says.

"Other pollution issues include industrial effluent, especially from pulp and paper mills, and stormwater containing contaminants like fuel combustion wastes from roads. Air pollution is also a problem, most notably in Christchurch and Timaru, and there are concerns over the state of our estuarine and marine environments. We have also inherited many historical contaminated sites, particularly from mining and timber treatment areas.

"New Zealand also has a legacy of problems with the use of organochlorine pesticides such as DDT. DDT is now banned in many countries including New Zealand, but is still used in large quantities, mainly in developing countries."

Dr Hickey says there will also be fascinating papers presented on how pesticides including DDT used in the tropics have diffused through evaporation to be deposited by snow and rain in presumably pristine areas like Fiordland and the polar regions, where these chemicals are known to have never been used.

"This underscores the fact that pollution in all its forms is a global problem and no country is immune. Many of the solutions to pollution are also global remedies. An international gathering such as this conference is a valuable opportunity to share information on acceptable methods of waste management and remediation.

"New Zealand scientists will be especially keen to gain knowledge from international colleagues on emerging issues such as increasing veterinary use of antibiotics and the emergence of resistance in microbes and possibly, pathogens. This is extremely important for a country such as ours, which relies on agricultural antibiotics to boost production."

Dr Hickey says another key factor for New Zealanders is that the conference is not just about scientists talking to each other. "The conference is unusual in that many government, local government, industry and interest group representatives will be there. These people help put our research findings into action."


"SETAC" Asia / Pacific * ASE 2003 * Solutions to Pollution" - Christchurch Convention Centre September 28 * October 1.

The Mayor of Christchurch, Garry Moore, will open the conference at 6.30pm on Sunday. The conference presentations will begin on Monday morning.

MEDIA ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND SESSIONS. PDF files of the timetables are attached. Summaries (abstracts) of many of the papers to be presented are available on request.

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