July 1, 2008

Service for Those With Dioxin Dose



* August 2001: Dr Patrick O'Connor's report on illness in Paritutu and Moturoa released.

* September 2002: Ministry for the Environment and ESR report on dioxin concentrations in soil in Paritutu.

* March 2003: ESR community dioxin exposure assessment study.

* March 2005: ESR final serum study report.

* December 2005: Report on cancer incidence and mortality in New Plymouth.

* September 2006: Ministry of Health starts work on early intervention health support service.

* July 2008: Support health service sign-up begins for the Paritutu community.


THIRTY years ago, the 5000-strong Paritutu community was exposed to toxic chemicals released from the IWD factory in their midst.

This week, those same residents, schoolkids and workers are finally to be offered a world-first health support service.

The long-promised Government- initiated service kicks off in Taranaki today. By October it will be offered all over the country to the estimated 5000 people believed to have lived near the Ivon Watkins-Dow plant between 1962 and 1987 when it was manufacturing 2,4,5-T, one of the byproducts of which were carcinogenic dioxins.

Taranaki District Health Board population health general manager Sandra Boardman said yesterday the service was unique for a community that had been exposed to toxins with a proven health impact.

The service, called the Dioxin- Exposed Persons' Health Support Service, will be reviewed in three years "to make sure it is addressing needs".

People who believe they meet the simple criteria will need to sign a statutory declaration, witnessed by a JP.

Ms Boardman says it is estimated that at least 50% of the residents and workers will by now have shifted away from the area.

"Nobody really knows. But we want everyone who thinks they are eligible to apply."

The applicant will then be given a free GP assessment and sent on to whatever other health service might be appropriate.

For instance, many in the community have said they had been badly stressed by the ongoing worries that their health and that of their families was at risk and might gain some help from community based mental health counselling, Ms Boardman said.

A whole range of other prevention services will be on offer. These include help to give up smoking and keeping active. "It's about people finding out what their current health status is and what they can do."

In some rare cases, where people were unable to move on with their lives, they could be offered dioxin serum testing, she said.

A community advisory group, including the lobbyists Cepra and iwi Ngati Te Whiti, had assisted the TDHB with what should be on offer, where and how.

Government consultants Allen and Clarke have noted that nothing similar exists anywhere else in the world for a similarly chemically exposed community.

One stop shops are open in New Plymouth, at St James Hall, Lawry St; Hawera's Ruanui Health Centre; Stratford District Council, Waitara Red Cross St John Hall; and Pungarehu Post Office.

People can ring the Ministry of Health help line for any other information on 0800 288 588.

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