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Dioxin study had robust international review

25 October 2006

Serum dioxin study had robust international review.

The Ministry of Health and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research reinforced their confidence in both the science and the peer review undertaken by internationally renowned scientists of the Paritutu serum dioxin study.

Following criticism by Auckland forensic accountant John Leonard, in his own report commissioned for TV3, both agencies have agreed to have the study independently peer reviewed.

ESR’s General Manager Environmental Health Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter said the study methodology and findings were reviewed by four scientists, regarded as leaders in their field. They are

- Dr Larry Needham, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Dr Eric Dybing, MD, PHD, Division Director and Professor, Division of Environmental Medicine at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health,
- Dr Neil Pearce, PhD, Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University,
- Dr Dwayne Dwernychuk from Hatfield Consultants in Canada.

Dr Douglas Lush, a senior advisor in public health medicine for the Ministry, said both agencies were surprised over media reports alleging a cover-up.

“Both ESR and the Ministry have gone to considerable lengths to inform the community, the public and the media about the steps that have taken about this issue. All recent reports are publicly available on the Ministry website,” he said.

The only portion of the Paritutu serum dioxin report that was not publicly released is Appendix O which has anonymised individual information about the participants in the study. Peer reviewers received the individual data for their review. ESR gave an undertaking to the community to withhold this information and this was part of the ethics committee approval for the study.

ESR believes that because individuals have publicly stated their serum dioxin results other personal health information held in the report may become indentifiable. The issue of whether this information should be publicly released is currently with the Ombudsman and both the Ministry and ESR will be guided by its decision.

ESR expects to have the independent reviews completed within two weeks.


ESR will be providing copies of the original ESR study and copy of the forensic accountants report to reviewers. The information will be provided to two independent experts. They will be asked if the criticisms affect both the findings and the recommendations of the original report.

Dr Dwernychuk, one of the original peer reviewers, was nominated for the role by Paritutu community representatives. The Paritutu Health Liaison Group was established in 2000 as a forum to discuss the Paritutu community’s concerns about exposure to dioxin from the nearby Ivon Watkins Dow factory which made the herbicide 2,4,5-T from 1969 till 1987. Dioxin is a by-product of that manufacturing process.

The Health Liaison group represented the Ratepayers Association, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Cancer Society, Ngati Te Whiti hapu, the Dioxin Investigation Action Group, the Dioxin Investigation Network, the Dioxin Legal Action Group, the New Plymouth District Council and Taranaki Health.

In 2005, following the meeting to discuss the findings of the final serum dioxin study, the group disbanded as members felt their concerns and issues had been answered by the Ministry of Health and ESR’s study.


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