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Hodgson must consult the people of Paritutu

1 November 2006

Hodgson must consult the people of Paritutu, Greens say

As the Ministry of Health seeks to dampen criticism of its response to the TV3 dioxin documentary, its adding of a secondary WHO approved analyst will do nothing to allay concerns among the Paritutu community about the prime reviewer, Professor Allan Smith, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"The addition of a second analyst is a diversion from the concerns about Professor Smith's appointment. So long as Professor Smith is involved with the review, the entire process will readily seem like a whitewash, and can only be a waste of time and taxpayer money.

"It is clear that Health Minister Pete Hodgson must pull the plug on Professor Smith entirely, and not seek to put someone else alongside him to deflect the criticism and misgivings within the Paritutu community, whose suffering is at the heart of the dioxin scandal, " Ms Kedgley says.

" Mr Hodgson needs only look at Professor Smith's address to a November 2005 dioxin symposium where he used very flattering terms to describe the Ministry of Health study on dioxin poisoning in Paritutu: that is central to the dioxin scandal highlighted by TV3's investigative team..

"Professor Smith told the symposium : 'Now there's an excellent report come out [on] the dioxin exposures in Paritutu in New Zealand and I do want to say before I say my little word of criticism [that] I think it is an excellent report...." The one sentence to which Professor Smith objected to was the authors' call for an epidemiological study on the health effects or not, on the exposed Paritutu community. That aside, Professor Smith then says for the third time : 'Its an excellent report.' ...."After that effort, how How can Pete Hodgson expect the Paritutu community to perceive Professor Smith as the neutral expert able to lead a dispassionately assessment of the study's shortcomings alleged by TV3 ? " Ms Kedgley says.

" To convince the community, the experts chosen must not only be independent but be perceived as independent by the people central to the scandal. As long ago as 1981, Professor Smith was described in departmental correspondence as the honorary epidemiologist to the Department of Health.. In 1999, Professor Smith fronted a series of public meetings entitled "Dioxins and Public Health" as part of an Environment Ministry programme to address public concerns about dioxins PCBs and organ chlorine pesticides.

"This sort of participation in Government programmes of re-assurances about dioxin discounts Dr Smith from being credibly presentable as an independent authority," Ms Kedgley says.

" What Mr Hodgson now has to do is start afresh, and directly consult and notify the Paritutu community and gain their endorsement of his selected expert, via a public meeting. Mr Hodgson also needs to ensure the expert selected receives the corrected individual serum data, and not the original data sets that allegedly contains the key categorisation errors."


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