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Dioxin peer reviews should now be scrapped

24 November 2006
Dioxin peer reviews should now be scrapped

The admission by Health Minister Pete Hodgson that there are errors in a key health study of residents exposed to dioxin in New Plymouth means that the completed peer reviews of the study should now be scrapped, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

In 2005, the Health Ministry released a study into dioxin levels in the community adjacent to a chemical plant. The findings of this study have since been heavily criticised by a TV3 documentary.

"As many as 14 out of 52 blood test scores have been copied into the wrong columns. Clearly, the peer reviews recently carried out on the Health Ministry's dioxin study are worthless, to the extent they relied upon this erroneous data.

"The Greens have already criticised the choice of one of the peer reviewers, Professor Alan Smith, as lacking credibility as an independent expert.

"The rest of the peer review process has been shrouded in mystery, with a 'mystery' expert evaluating the allegedly flawed report. The secrecy surrounding the expert is supposedly to shield the reviewer - according to Hodgson, she is an American - from media scrutiny.

"This is ridiculous, given that it has been the media that has consistently exposed the flagrant abuses of process throughout this whole sorry saga, and we call on the Minister to inform the public who this expert is, and what are her credentials.

"Pete Hodgson also needs to explain what he intends to do now that he has acknowledged significant errors in the key health study, including raw data that is clearly in the wrong place. He has also promised to order that the dates of residence be checked.

"He also needs to explain just how errors on this scale - fully one third of the subjects involved - can have occurred. The public rely on and expect a far higher standard of work than this from the health authorities."

ENDS

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