Sunday, September 14, 2014

Long-awaited dioxins report released; EPA says low doses risky but most people safe — Environmental Health News

Report released; EPA says low doses risky but most? people safe? — Environmental Health News

Dioxins have been called the most toxic of all man-made chemicals, based on animal studies that show effects at extremely low doses – in the parts per trillion.Nevertheless, the EPA said that people's exposures have declined so much in the past two decades that most people are safe. "Today’s findings show that generally, over a person’s lifetime, current exposure to dioxins does not pose a significant health risk," EPA officials said.
One scientist who studies dioxins, Arnold Schecter of University of Texas School of Public Health, questioned that statement, calling it "very odd," because some people are more highly exposed than average and some groups, such as fetuses and nursing babies, are more sensitive to the effects.

Full article Here
Environmental Health News
February 17, 2012

Veteran grapples with long term affects of Agent Orange

Members with Vietnam Veterans of America said they hoped an event on Sept. 13 would raise awareness about veterans impacted by Agent Orange.

The event will be held Sept. 13 at United Steelworkers of America on East Trent in Spokane Valley.
Veterans and their families are invited from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.. 

According to Vietnam Veterans of America, 18 birth defects have been connected to Agent Orange exposure.  Members said 22 presumptive diseases have also been caused by Agent Orange.

Raymond said his problems began when he was serving in Vietnam.
"Tingling sensations in my hands, and my feet, and my face. It didn't seem very normal to me. So, when I went to see the doc, he told me, 'You need to take some salt tablets because you're dehydrated.'"
Raymond said he now knows he has a rare form of blood cancer. 

He noted he also suffers from diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, and peripheral neuropathy. 
"We have some evidence that we can use to show legislators that, yes, there is a problem!" Raymond said.

Dioxin - DuPont A Fox given charge over the Hen House

The DuPont plant in DeLisle: Fox given charge over the Hen House

Mississippi has been releasing large amounts of dioxin and heavy metals for nearly 20 years. This film explores health problems being experienced by residents and former workers, and evidence that oysters in the area exported for sale around the U.S. have been contaminated by DuPont's poisonous discharges. About 2,000 people have filed lawsuits against DuPont alleging pollution from this facility has harmed their health.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dioxin testing Std in NZ {GC-HRMS AND CALUX™}

A Comparative Study of GC-HRMS and CALUX™ TEQ Determinations in Food Samples 
by the Belgian Federal Ministries of Public Health and Agriculture. 
Full PDF here

GC-HRMS: Gas Chromatography/High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry

CALUX™Chemical Activated Luciferase gene eXpression

Biologically based systems of analysis for TEQ determination of contamination of food and feed have developed to the point that they are useful for risk assessment determinations of the hazards of exposure to this class of environmental contaminants. 
Other investigators have demonstrated the value of reporter gene technology in assessing dioxin and/or PCB contamination and the risk of exposure to this class of environmental contaminants with less stringent parametric correlations.6,7 

The data in this report showed the usefulness of the CALUX™ method as an alternative 
method for GC-HRMS to determine TEQ levels in different matrices. 
It is a rapid and cost effective analytical system to determine planar PCB- and PCDD/PCDF- levels in various food products.  
We showed that a good correlation exists between GC-HRMS data and CALUX™ data and that a minimal amount of false positive results is obtained using the CALUX™ method.  
More data are required to obtain an improved model for predicting GC-HRMS data from CALUX™ results and to study matrix dependent influences. 

New Zealands' 
Testing Standard Uses 2014 "GC-HRMS"

Friday, April 04, 2014

Dioxins and PCBs

Dioxins are released as unintentional byproducts in burning and chlorination processes. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been used for example as heat transfer and insulation fluids in capacitors and transformers. The EU has set maximum limits on the levels of dioxins and PCBs allowed in fish and other foods.
The analytical methods for dioxins and PCBs are accredited with a flexible scope. This means that the methods are suitable for most sample matrixes.
The unit provides analytical services on a routine basis and accepts individual samples as well as samples from larger research projects. Details of the method are given in the Analytical Services brochure.

Compounds analyzed

Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs)
  • 2,3,7,8-TCDD
  • 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD
  • 1,2,3,4,7,8-HxCDD
  • 1,2,3,6,7,8-HxCDD
  • 1,2,3,7,8,9-HxCDD
  • 1,2,3,4,6,7,8-HpCDD
  • OCDD
Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs)
  • 2,3,7,8-TCDF
  • 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDF
  • 2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF
  • 1,2,3,4,7,8-HxCDF
  • 1,2,3,6,7,8-HxCDF
  • 1,2,3,7,8,9-HxCDF
  • 2,3,4,6,7,8-HxCDF
  • 1,2,3,4,6,7,8-HpCDF
  • 1,2,3,4,7,8,9-HpCDF
  • OCDF
Non-ortho polychlorinated bifenyls (Non-ortho PCBs)
  • PCB 77
  • PCB 81
  • PCB 126
  • PCB 169
Other polypolychlorinated bifenyls (Other PCBs)
  • PCB 18
  • PCB 28/(31)
  • PCB 33
  • PCB 47
  • PCB 49
  • PCB 51
  • PCB 52
  • PCB 60
  • PCB 66
  • PCB 74
  • PCB 99
  • PCB 101
  • PCB 105
  • PCB 110
  • PCB 114
  • PCB 118
  • PCB 122
  • PCB 123
  • PCB 128
  • PCB 138
  • PCB 141
  • PCB 153
  • PCB 156
  • PCB 157
  • PCB 167
  • PCB 170
  • PCB 180
  • PCB 183
  • PCB 187
  • PCB 189
  • PCB 194
  • PCB 206
  • PCB 209

Friday, March 28, 2014

Remote - Access - Chemical - Hazards - Electronic - Library: providing scientific information about human health and the environment.

  • 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin SEE Dioxin
  • Bioaccumulation of toxic substances: 219 (dioxin), 225234284
  • Birth defects:  73 (dioxin), 133144 (PCB), 146149212 (Agent Orange), 250, #267 (TCE),  276279290 (sexual behavior)
  • Cancer - Dioxin: #73171173175219269270275310
  • "Cancer Mortality Among Workers in Chemical Plant Contaminated with Dioxin": #270
  • "Cancer Mortality in Workers Exposed to 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin": #219
  • "Cancer Mortality in Workers Exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin": #270
  • Carcinogens: #104(Love Canal),  127144(PCB), 149269(dioxin), 270 (dioxin), 275(dioxin)
  • Cell damage - Dioxin: #270
  • Cement: #192243(quality), 314(dioxin)
  • "Comparative Dermal Absorption of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and Three Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans": #120
  • "Dioxin - When Was the Danger Known?": #219
  • "Dioxin": #173
  • Dioxin series: #171(Part 1), 173(Part 2), 175(Part 3), 219(Part 4)
  • "Dioxin Toxicity: New Studies Prompt Debate, Regulatory Action": #275
  • Dioxins - Cancer SEE Cancer - Dioxin
  • Dioxins - Cell damage SEE Cell damage - Dioxin
  • Dioxins - Cement SEE Cement
  • Dioxins - Health effects: # 171173175212249269,270279283290310
  • Dioxins - Health effects SEE ALSO Cancer - Dioxin
  • Dioxins - Immune system: #310
  • Dioxins - Incineration: #311312
  • Dioxins - Lawsuits: #275
  • Dioxins - Production: #173
  • Dioxins - Safe dose: #173219248311
  • Dioxins - Sexual development effects SEE Sexual development - Effects of dioxin
  • Dioxins - Skin absorption: #120
  • Dioxins - Threshold levels: #270
  • Dioxins - Toxicity: #171173175219275310
  • Dioxins - Wildlife: #249310
  • Dioxins: #51015213134454752737582143146171,
  • "Environmental Hormone" (dioxin): #269270
  • Environmental Protection Agency - (position on dioxin), 287
  • EPA's Dioxin Reassessment series: #269(Part 1), 270(Part 2)
  • "Exposure to Dioxins and Dibenzofurans Through the Consumption of Fish": #219
  • "Exposure to Dioxins as a Risk Factor for Soft Tissue Sarcomas: A Population- Based Case- Control Study": #250
  • "Hallmark of Dioxin Intoxication": #171
  • Hormones: #263264269270310(dioxin)
  • "How Dangerous is Dioxin": #219
  • Immune system: #3170123144(PCB), 270 (dioxin)
  • "IN UTERO and Lactational Exposure of Male Rats to 2,3,7,8-Tetrachloro-dibenzo-p-dioxin. Part 1. Effects on Androgenic Status; Part 2. Effects on Sexual Behavior and the Regulation of Luteinizing Hormone Secretion in Adulthood; and Part 3. Effects on Spermatogenesis and Reproductive Capability.": #290
  • Law suits - Dioxin SEE Dioxin - Lawsuits
  • "New Analysis Links Dioxin to Cancer": #171
  • Paper industry - Dioxin: #270275
  • "Perinatal Dioxin Feminizes Male Rats": #290
  • "Puzzling Over a Poison; On closer inspection, the ubiquitous pollutant dioxin appears more dangerous than ever": #280
  • Reproduction - Effects of Dioxin: #290
  • Series Cancer:  EPA's Dioxin Reassessment: #269 (Part 1), 270 (Part 2), 
  • Sexual development - Effects of dioxin: #290
  • Skin absorption of dioxins SEE Dioxins - Skin absorption
  • TCCD SEE Dioxins
  • Viet Nam veterans SEE ALSO Agent OrangeDioxin
  • Zero discharge: 284310(dioxin)
  • Zero tolerance of toxic chemicals SEE Hazardous substances - Health effects; names of specific compounds such as Dioxins - Threshold levels

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"No strong evidence" PCP damages genes

* No surprise this article was released the day after this event see {here}
     "Wood mill workers claim victory" dated 23rd June 2010

Thursday June 24, 2010 NZPA

Health officials say researchers may look at developing a way to assess the inter-generational impacts of pentachlorophenol (PCP) on the children and grandchildren of timber workers exposed to the preservative.

But the Health Ministry's environmental health protection manager Sally Gilbert has already said there is not sufficient justification for funding serum dioxin tests or other tests to determine damage to DNA.*1

She said yesterday blood tests for dioxin only showed a person had been exposed, and there was "no strong evidence" to suggest that PCP caused genetic damage.*2 

A consultant who has worked closely with the ministry and a timber workers' lobby, Matt Allen of Allen and Clarke, said that issues such as whether geneticists will work with epidemiologists and toxicologists on a study of effect on workers' children and grandchildren will have to be decided by scientists who designed the study - if there was one.*3

He expected the consideration of such a study and who took part would be a parallel process alongside the set up of a health support service to provide workers exposed to the chemical with free annual health checks. Plans for the checks, information, and advice were announced to 200 workers at Whakatane yesterday.

Sawmill workers who were exposed to the chemical during the 30 years it was commonly used to stop fungal sapstain in timber have complained that family members suffered a high rate of birth defects such as cleft palates, extra toes, cognitive problems, club feet and, in one case, a baby born with its internal organs outside its body.

The ministry said yesterday that if a "robust" research methodology could be found for impacts of PCP on descendants of sawmill workers "a proposal for funding could then be advanced via the usual research funding processes".

In 2001 the government gave nuclear test veterans $100,000 which they used to fund an intensive chromosomal study at Massey University, where Professor Al Rowland used gene analysis techniques to show that New Zealand sailors suffered genetic damage from their exposure to radiation during nuclear tests 50 years earlier in the Pacific.

Rowland then used a similar approach to show increased rates of genetic damage in Vietnam War veterans exposed to dioxins and their breakdown products, by investigating damage to their chromosomes.

Green Party spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said the health care package must provide funding for a investigation of inter-generational effects.
The sawmill workers had been exposed to high levels of dioxin, the same as "Agent Orange" victims among Vietnam veterans, and "they should at least get the same level of support".*4
About 200 workers are known to have developed chronic illnesses after inhaling dioxins from PCP used between the 1950s and late 1980s.

One study showed some workers had high rates of cancer, diabetes, kidney, liver and heart failure. There was a 40% increase in the risk of cancer in sawmill workers exposed to PCP compared with those who were not, and they also had a 200% to 300% increase in deaths from chronic non-cancerous respiratory disease.

The ministry said PCP was associated with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and soft tissue sarcoma but dioxins appeared to act more as a cancer promoter than to actually trigger cancer.*1/2

Original Source


Dr Linda Birnbaum on April 19, 2004. At the time she was Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency's Environment Toxicology Division. In 2010 she became Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Blog opinion: 
*1 The NZ Government truly do not want to know the truth that's why they defer to advise from IOM instead of the organisations the really do know and say exactly what effects these dioxins have on humans.  
*2 Generational effects is also documented well with these qualified reference points unlike IOM, only the blind and fool would say otherwise. 
*3 Government Spin Doctors
*4 The Green Party have always said a lot yet to this day delivered no substantial result to sufferes of dioxin exspo

** 'This is all about' ** 
'affordability of the TRUTH'

Wood mill workers claim victory

*Maybe Moral Only
Wednesday June 23, 2010
play video news here
Former Whakatane wood mill workers have won a hard fought victory in their battle to get health support after years of exposure to poisons.

The workers claim they have suffered serious health problems from working with carcinogenic timber treatment chemicals, including the timber preservative PCP.

The Ministry of Health told a meeting of 200 workers that it is setting up a special support service for the ex-mill hands which will include free health checks and counselling.

They were also told they will be given access to health promotions to reduce risks, such as cancer, and mental health services.

Mala Palai
Many of the men still suffering consider it just a start, after having their complaints ignored for years, with former mill worker, Mala Palai, saying real change will be more difficult to come by.
"I'm still fighting, that's why I'm happy to come along and listen to this. (It) may be something new, but I can't see any change," he says.
The cost of the health support work will depend on how many people take it up, but consultants have estimated between $400,000-$1.3 million over two years.

A lobby group, Sawmill Workers Against Poisons (SWAP), has been fighting for help for nearly 30 years, and workers have complained of high rates of cancer, diabetes, and kidney, liver and heart failure.

Around 200 workers at the Whakatane wood mill developed chronic illnesses and psychological problems after inhaling dioxins from the anti-fungal timber treatment PCP between the 1950s and 1980s.

They were so unaware of the dangers they often used log splinters as toothpicks and sawdust from the mill in their fish smokers and gardens.

Research from Massey University showed higher levels of cancer and lung disease than normal in the former workers, and according to researcher David McLean, the increase was significant.
"We did find that they had more cancer - they had something like 50% more cancer than you'd expect from a population of that size and age," he says.
Another study found a 40% increase in the risk of cancer in sawmill workers exposed to PCP compared with those who were not, and a 200% to 300% increase in deaths from chronic non-cancerous respiratory disease in PCP-exposed workers.

The Ministry says it does not know much about the long-term health effects associated with exposure to PCP*1 , but it is a possible human carcinogen associated with non-hodgkin's lymphoma and soft tissue sarcoma.

Dioxins appear to act more as a cancer promoter than as a cancer initiator, and do not appear to be directly toxic to genes.

About 10% of workers who had relatively high levels of dioxin in their blood worked in the industry for 10 years or more, or did high-risk jobs such as cleaning out PCP containers.

The highest dioxin level recorded in the 2007 study was in a former worker who had the equivalent of 90.2 parts per trillion (ppt) - suggesting it would have been as high as 360-720ppt 20 years earlier - and such workers are three times more likely to have respiratory disease.

People with more PCP exposure also reported increased prevalence of a number of other health conditions, including eczema, thyroid disorders, unexplained persistent fevers, recurrent nausea and diarrhoea, heart palpitations and low libido.

An initial compensation package offer was turned down by workers this year, and there was no announcement of compensation today.

People who worked for at least a year in a sawmill where PCP was used and came into contact with wet PCP will get the health support, but no faster access to treatment than other New Zealander's with the same needs.

The report does not support former sawmill workers getting faster access to treatment services than other New Zealander's who might have the same needs.

The Ministry said there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the workers' children or grandchildren will suffer health effects*2 , but research will now be carried out to determine the validity of the claim.

Original Source

Blog opinion: 
*1 The NZ Government truly do not want to know the truth that's why they defer to advise from IOM instead of the organisations the really do know and say exactly what effects these dioxins have on humans.  
*2 Generational effects is also documented well with these qualified reference points unlike IOM, only the blind and fool would say otherwise. 

** 'This is all about' ** 
'affordability of the TRUTH'

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Good Morning - Jan/Feb 2001



Investigate Magazine Jan/Feb 2001

A Vietnamese baby with a deformed ear and mouth resulting from Agent Orange exposure, and skin lesions on another. Photos: BBC

A BBC documentary on the ongoing effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam shows horrific, startling pictures of children with deformed ears and faces.

It show sickening images of skin abnormalities which look like third degree burns.

These are not just a handful of cases: in the worst affected areas it is hard to find people who haven’t got cancer, whose children aren't blighted by birth defects.

It’s a gut wrenching show that highlights the ignorance or stupidity of an American government blinded by the poisoned chalice it handed a country in a moment of madness.

Now look at some of these pictures over the page. A baby, now 15 years old, born with a deformed ear. Another woman with blisters that look like major burns, but she has never been scalded.

These aren't images from Vietnam, but the working class suburb of Paritutu in New Plymouth. Coincidentally, as we now know following extensive investigations by this magazine – investigations which the so-called ‘mainstream media’ are only now daring to take notice of – that’s where they made Agent Orange. And that’s where they secretly buried it beneath the ground and built houses on the site.

A 58 year old woman, who has asked not be named, lived in the area between 1969 and 1976.

When foamy liquid bubbled out from the ground in her garden she was told by Ivon Watkins Dow “not to worry” ...
Left & Below: Compare these Pictures from new Plymouth with Vietnamese Agent Orange photos
Photos: supplied by residents
... about it…it was just a harmless phenomenon. But this isn't Rotorua and this ain't no tourist attraction.
“This happened for a long time,” she says. “It would come up out of the soil and reminded me of dishwashing liquid. And it stunk. We just didn't know what it was but were told to forget about it.”
The woman suffers from blisters in her feet, hand, legs and arms. She also suffered from cervical cancer and other nasty illnesses, like many of the residents in Paritutu. Residents like Ross Lawrence, 43, who lived within a stone’s throw of the plants and worked there as a storeman between 1980 and 1985.

He contracted non-Hodgkins lymphona and Hepatitis C in 1998 – one year after his wife, Patricia, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even their family dog, Ena, died of cancer last year and both Ross’s children suffer from a mixture of skin complaints.

Another two families in the area have given birth to babies born with no brain - a proven Agent Orange condition in Vietnam.

A recent public meeting in New Plymouth turned into a roll call of disease and desperate stories. People who until now suffered in silence, unaware that their illness was linked to the biggest environmental scandal in our countrys’ history. A scandal which slowly, but surely, is being exposed.

Helen Clark, now Prime Minister, was Minister of Health in the last Labour Government. How much did she know when Labour set laughable terms of reference for an inquiry that called no meaningful witnesses, and found “no evidence”?

Original Source: PDF
Reproduction of the document by this blog completed 26/03/2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

TOXIC WASTE: Investigate April 2002 pages 28 - 37

Reproduction of Investigate April 2002 pages 28 - 37 
A baby born dead with anencephaly - no brain
- a condition linked to dioxin poisoning
is this the result of dioxin poisoning in New Zealand? 
HAMISH CARNACHAN investigates the terrible legacy the Government claims to know nothing about

icture this: an early 1970's hospital ward in provincial boom-town New Plymouth, late afternoon sun streaming through the casement windows and catching little dust eddies in the air, making them sparkle. Nurses in crisply-starched white uniforms and caps march equally crisply along corridors, while somewhere nearby a newborn baby mews for its mother.

Yet to one woman walking the wards that day, something was inexplicably wrong. It just did not seem right. Why was this happening? As she patrolled the sterile hospital corridors, her eyes focusing on the rows of cots cradling helpless little newborns and, in particular, the infant wailing for a mother who would never come, the same questions ran through her mind over and over again. Why were there so many of these babies in the maternity ward, one in every 30 births, with gross disfigurements?

This was supposed to be one of the happier places in the hospital and the birth of a child was supposed to be one of the happiest days of the parents. lives. But it broke the senior health worker’s heart to see parents walking away from these wretched little children. What was causing these defects so disturbing that even the children’s parents were rejecting their very own flesh and blood?

In her 29 years of obstetric experience she had never seen anything like it. Was it the atomic bombs they were testing in the Pacific? Perhaps it was the weed spray the council was using in the streets or the farmers using on their land? None of the doctors seemed to have any answers but they were well aware that something out of the ordinary was causing an unprecedented rise in the number of congenital birth defects in the area.

The senior health worker was desperate to find the answers to put an end to the suffering and heartache.
But, like many of those babies tragically disowned, she found herself alone. Unhappy with the lack of assistance from local health authorities she was forced to conduct her own independent study. She started taking photos and recording the various types and degree of birth abnormalities coming through her ward. More than 30 years on, the senior health worker is now well into her 80s.

The things she saw and the fact that she could do nothing for those poor children still deeply affects her. In a recently written letter to the Chairman of the Dioxin Investigation Action Group she expressed her concern and remorse at the lack of interest shown by the authorities in the 70s, and concluded with this heart- felt plea: "I hope it won’t be too long before we get some explanatory conclusions as, at 80+, time is getting short for me and I don’t want to die wondering”

Many of the people in the Taranaki region, where this took place, and those who have been affected feel the same way. The photos that appear on these pages are only a fraction of what was passed to “Investigate” . We were handed statistics and an entire album full of similarly disturbing images, 167 babies in total and many of them with multiple defects. Most of these were too graphic to publish. This is the first time the public has seen these pictures. They were taken in a New Plymouth maternity ward at the same time a local chemical manufacturer, Ivon Watkins Dow, was producing dioxin in their herbicide 2,4,5-T . In amounts hundreds of times greater than today’s recognised safety levels.

BUT THESE PHOTOS, and the story behind them that successive health authorities have refused to investigate, is part of a massive time bomb sitting underneath New Plymouth Hospital: “Investigate” has reliable formation that the hospital is sitting on a stockpile of deformed babies in jars, a so-called “House of Horrors” that makes the Greenlane heart scandal pale into insignificance.

Health authorities have known about the photos and the health problems suffered by the New Plymouth residents for decades but, documents obtained by “Investigate” reveal a pattern of health officials continually stonewalling any attempts to discern the underlying cause.

The residents have been left feeling disgruntled, neglected, but above all - angry. They want answers and they want them now, not in the form of political rhetoric or big business spin doctoring, but by means of an entirely independent inquiry.

These images echo the well-documented pictures of the Vietnamese children born to veterans of the 60s and 70s conflict that tore their nation apart. Researchers in Vietnam are almost certain there is a link between the extraordinarily high occurrence of birth defects in their country and the use of Agent Orange defoliant that was extensively sprayed over large areas of South Vietnam, and the children’s parents, nearly 40 years ago.

fig 1: A baby born dead with anencephaly - no brain - a condition linked to dioxin poisoning Fig 2: Massive facial deformity Fig 3: Cleft palate another condition linked to dioxin

Now, all over Vietnam, especially in the south where the heaviest fighting and consolidated spray operations ravaged the countryside, are children who have been born with remarkably similar defects.

The figures from the Vietnam experience speak for themselves. In areas that were sprayed with Agent Orange the researchers have discovered a threefold leap in stillborn births and miscarriages. In one province 69 babies out of every 10,000 were born with no brain, compared to fewer than 10 in most countries and two in Canada.

Dioxin Investigation Network's Andrew Gibbs
While the doctors who undertook the research admit that the data is not conclusive, other birth defects indicate that it is highly evocative. The risk of cleft palate is nearly 3 ½ times higher in areas that were sprayed and skin disorders nearly 4 ½ times higher. Some cases are so severe that portions of the face are completely missing.

Similarly increased rates of blindness, deafness, extra digits, missing or truncated limbs, clubfoot, cerebral palsy and spina bifida have also been recorded.

This appalling legacy of a horrific war continues to scar this struggling nation more than two decades after the last shots were fired and the last planes unloaded their lethal cargo of highly toxic spray over the country¬ side and the people.

But this story is about New Zealand and New Zealander's who may have unwittingly been subjected to a similarly appalling experiment - one that may well account for our nation’s poor health record when compared with other developed countries, and one that will completely shatter our much-lauded “clean green” catch-cry.

New Zealand is a country built on agriculture and associated with that is the longest history of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T use both of which are key ingredients of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange. These herbicides have been used extensively since 1948 when they were first imported and then from 1960 onward when local manufacture began. It seems possible that we have poisoned a generation in our over-zealous endeavours to become one of the top OECD countries in the 1960s.

The increase in the number of congenital birth defects in New Plymouth was not merely a regional disparity. It is a little known fact that nation¬wide the number of congenital malformations recorded also increased dramatically. For example, between 1964 and 1971 the number of birth defects reported in New Plymouth nearly doubled. Similar increases were recorded in city centers and regions throughout New Zealand over the same period.

The spokesman for the Dioxin Investigation Network, Andrew Gibbs, says it is no coincidence that many in New Plymouth and other regions of New Zealand have suffered from the same health problems as the Vietnamese and Vietnam veterans

He believes these tragic birth defects and the various ailments suffered can be directly linked to the city’s largest employer to the Ivon Watkins Dow chemical plant, now called Dow AgroSciences NZ Ltd.

Artist’s impression of 1972
explosion at the IWD plant
in New Plymouth
Since the early 1960s IWD manufactured the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) these herbicides contain 14 types of dioxin, one of which, 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD), is listed as one of the most toxic substances known to man.
What you’re going to get are these health problems and birth defects coming out from generation to generation
Following exposure to dioxin, effects may not manifest in the body for a long time. It has been linked to many different tumors, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, respiratory cancers, soft tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease and prostate cancer. Recent US and European studies suggest it is highly likely to cause problems in fetal development. It can cause severe birth defects including malformation of the penis, heart disease, clubfoot and a condition known as anencephaly, where a child is born without a brain.

George Lucier, director of the US National Toxicology Programme and author of the USEPA report says scientists are not quite sure how dioxin damages the body, but they do know that it acted on a universal mechanism controlling cell functions.

Dioxin attaches or binds to the “All receptor” - a kind of cellular doorway found in virtually all cells in the body. Once there, it changes the function of hundreds of genes. It will either stimulate gene expression or suppress it. Gibbs says this is so worrying because the genetic damage can be passed down through many generations.

What you’re going to get are these health problems and birth defects coming out from generation to generation within the exposed group. We’re seeing this happening in ex-Paritutu [a suburb bordering the Dow plant] residents now,” he says. New Zealand first used the dioxin-contaminated herbicide in 1948 to control blackberry in the Taranaki region. After that it was used extensively on farms throughout the country until 1987 when it was finally pulled from the market because of increasing awareness of the inherent health risks. IWD was the only company that formulated the chemical in this country. Gibbs believes the level of dioxin in the product they manufactured between 1960 and 1972 could have been far greater than the safety levels of today.
“According to the Commissioner for the Environment and the International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC], the 1960s batches may have contained dioxin up to 20,000 times higher than 1985 levels,” he says. In a 1997 IARC report (volume 69), their overall evaluation clearly states: .2,3,7,8-TCDD is carcinogenic to humans

The production of 2,4,5-T at the IWD plant peaked in the 60’s and 70’s, and Gibbs says the residents of New Plymouth were subsequently exposed to levels of dioxin as high as the levels in Agent Orange used in Vietnam.

Both 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T were developed in 1941 at Fort Detrick as chemical warfare agents to be used against the Japanese in WWII. However, the first tests of what was to become Agent Orange (a mixture of equal parts of the herbicide 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D) did not take place until 1959.

We were using it from 1948 so New Zealander's were effectively the guinea pigs. The 2,4,5-T that we were using had levels of dioxin just as high as that used in Agent Orange,” says Gibbs. “That’s why there was such a noticeable rise in the numbers of birth defects in the 60’s and 70’s. In addition, the Vietnam Veterans

Association pharmaceutical advisor has alleged that New Zealand supplied stocks of Agent Orange chemicals for the Vietnam War, quantities of which were returned in the early 70s and sold to farmers for agricultural spray.

At the time, a National Government was paying subsidies on agricultural sprays for many parts of the country.

IWD had to a make a chemical called 2,4,5-trichlorophenol (TCP) before the herbicide could be produced. It was one of the essential ingredients in 2,4,5-T. However the problem with the TCP manufacturing process was that it produced dioxin (TCDD) as a by-product. This was extracted and concentrated in a solvent that was then stored in drums.

From 1974 to 1976 the Health Department granted IWD consent to bury 950 drums of dioxin-contaminated waste in three sites in the New Ply¬mouth area. The buried waste leaked at one of these locations, an area of eroding coastal land, and was later relocated to a secure lined-dump. In 1975 the company the 1975 -1979 burn off by the IWD plant, and Gibbs constructed a liquid-burning incinerator to continuously burn the accumulated solvent by-product under conditions also licensed by the Department of Health. This continued until 1979, by which time 566,000 litres of waste had been incinerated. It contained nearly 6kg of Gibbs believes the 1975 emissions were over 9500 times the concentration of today’s recognised safety level.

IWD later installed a solid waste incinerator at New Plymouth to burn solid wastes and sludge that had accumulated since 1976. Though neither of them had ‘scrubbers’ to remove harmful pollutants and the potentially lethal dioxin from emissions -the Health Department licensed both of these.
Another confidential Dow document dated March 10, 1965 referring to the same chemical produced by Monsanto states: “This material presents a definite hazard
The US completed the burn-off of excess defoliants from the Vietnam War in 1977. They were incinerated on a ship about 120 kilometres downwind of Johnson Island in the Pacific. IWD incinerated their waste merely a few kilometres up wind of New Plymouth.

A further incident in 1972 compounded the exposure the New Plymouth residents were subjected to. On November 3 an explosion ripped through a building at the plant that blew out much of the roof and walls of the facility. The resultant fallout scattered contaminants, probably including dioxin, over the suburbs and farmland that borders the factory.

No health alert was issued. There was no monitoring of the local population. Instead of alerting the residents to the presence of a dangerous situation, the government agencies responsible for the consequences of chemical contamination did nothing. IWD were undaunted and continued production.

Despite constantly reassuring the public that the chemicals they produced were safe, IWD did not disclose what chemicals or what process had resulted in the explosion - somewhat contradictory to their latest radio slogan: “Supporting an informed community"

The Health Department only intermittently monitored the 1975 -1979 burn off by the IWD plant, and Gibbs believes they may well have been producing more 2,4,5¬ T than the company records actually disclose. Gibbs. mistrust of the company is not entirely unwarranted. In a memo from IWD's parent company, Dow Chemicals, one of their biochemists states (in reference to dioxin): “This material is exceptionally toxic, it has a tremendous potential for producing chloracne and systemic injury”.

The confidential document was sent to the Bio-products Manager of Dow Chemicals in Canada in 1965. It provides clear evidence that the company had known of the adverse effects caused by 2,4,5-T prior to its large-scale use in Vietnam.

Furthermore, another confidential Dow document dated March 10, 1965 referring to the same chemical produced by Monsanto states: “This material presents a definite hazard which would require all the precautions…to prevent injury..” and “In my opinion their products should not be sold until animal tests show these products to be free of a significant hazard from the [dioxin] related materials”.

Dow ignored these warnings even after animal tests conducted in 1965 showed dioxin caused severely increased rates of cleft palate in mice. The tests carried out by Bionetics Research Laboratory, a US-based independent testing agency, also reported that 2,4,5-T and possibly 2,4-D were ‘teratogens’ (Greek for “monster forming”) - agents that raise the incidence of congenital abnormalities. This knowledge was suppressed until 1969.

Equally as disturbing though is that this knowledge was kept from the New Zealand public. Workers in the IWD plant and agriculture, railway and forestry sectors had formed a heavy reliance on the product since its first trial in Taranaki, and continued to use it until 1987. Indeed, drums of the material can still be found in farm sheds around the country.

The IWD manual [1970s] shows a New Zealand spray applicator wearing shorts and not even a T-shirt while using this stuff . no respirator or protective suit. Pictures taken during the Vietnam War show “Ranch Hand” troops [Chemical Corp soldiers] in full protection ‘hazchem’ Suits,” says Gibbs.

They should be liable for label fraud too. The product has never been labelled as containing dioxin, and the dioxin concentration wasn't even regulated until 1973. Prior to that was when the damage was done.
“Why do you think New Zealand’s got such an appalling health record compared to other developed countries? Look at our cancer stats. Look at our level of respiratory diseases.”
He says the Ministry of Health is “dragging the chain” and they are not willing to acknowledge the health problems for fear of opening the floodgates for compensation claims.

The President of the Vietnam Veterans Association of New Zealand Inc., John Moller, sympathises with Gibbs and the Taranaki residents. The US government has acknowledged their veterans’ (and their families’) health problems but it has taken our Government years longer to compensate soldiers who served in Vietnam.

Moller believes the Government refuses to comprehend the seriousness of the matter because of the link between the servicemen’s exposure to dioxin in Agent Orange and the populations’ exposure to dioxin in 2,4,5-T.
“It took them [Government] 18 years to realise our concerns and still having problems,” says Moller.”They really haven’t had a serious look at the national problem either.
“They’re trying to keep it quiet because New Zealand defence was implicated with trying to supply Agent Orange to Vietnam. We've never been able to prove that but there’s been so many lies told over the years that it’s hard to ascertain where the truth lies.”
Although he believes the issues surrounding the veterans’ health concerns have not been resolved adequately, Moller says the Government should now focus very seriously on the national health problems associated with dioxin exposure.
“Studies in Australia show their veterans are five times more likely to develop prostate cancer than the rest of the population. The Government has a responsibility to inform our veterans, and all the guys who used those herbicides, they need to have regular medical checks,” he says.
“Our overall cancer rate is something like five times higher than other developed countries. They [Government] have to take some responsibility for that.”
Gibbs agrees but says previous inquiries have failed to address relevant issues, which is indicative of a cover-up.
A 1986/87 Ministerial Committee of Inquiry investigating the New Plymouth dioxin exposure concluded that there was no evidence supporting the residents’ concerns and that they had not been exposed. However, soil tests by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) that discovered Vietnam-like levels of dioxin around the IWD plant were not published in the report.

These tests provided evidence of historic airborne contamination.

The most recent report, prepared by Taranaki's medical officer of health Dr. Patrick O'Connor, was released in August 2001. The objective of this study was to compare the rate of illness in several New Plymouth suburbs (bordering the IWD plant) with the rest of the country.

The findings were important because O'Connor stated that they should be used to ascertain whether or not further investigations into the historic health outcomes would be warranted.

But because the study did not deal with health outcomes before 1988 in the first place, Gibbs says the report was a costly “red-herring produced at the tax payers’ expense”.

He remains adamant that the study was a waste of time because it failed to identify the key exposure group - all residents who were present in the 60s and 70s when the largest quantities of 2,4,5-T, with Agent Orange levels of dioxin, were manufactured.

Even O’Connor’s report recognises that human carcinogens may have a latency period of between 5 and 30 years or more. Basically this means they lie dormant in the body for long periods before they cause problems.
“To get accurate results they needed to track down residents who have left. That’s going to affect the results of the study because many of them have moved away”. says Gibbs. “Their cancers and health problems that were probably caused when they lived here are attributed to the regions they live in now.
“O’Connor’s report focused on an area that was too small to accurately quantify the level of dioxin exposure, and it failed to include people who may have worked in those suburbs but resided elsewhere.
“The report does not recognise that the rate of birth defects would have fallen significantly with the introduction of antenatal ultrasound scanning. This technology was not available at the time [the senior health worker] carried out her study. In more recent times it is likely that many parents who had their unborn child diagnosed with congenital abnormalities may have terminated the pregnancy”.
Gibbs asserts that various omissions and erroneous dates substantiate his claims that the study was another Health Department cover-up.

“Investigate” cross-referenced the report with official documents and media-reports and it appears that key events are indeed missing.

Dr O'Connor refers to the explosion at the manufacturing plant as a “fire” and he makes no reference to the incineration of 5.7kg of TCDD between 1975 and 1979.

A 1986 Health Department report by the Regional Air Pollution Control Officer, Ron Pilgrim, indicates the peak emission period, and hence the key exposure, was from 1964 to 1969. Pilgrim states: “The degree of process control at the time was rudimentary compared with after 1969”.

Again, O'Connor makes no reference to this period of dioxin exposure Investigate that he believed the chronological summary of the report was “accurate”.

He was unapologetic of the fact that he did not investigate historic exposure, and was unwilling to accept the identified links between dioxin and detrimental health effects.
“To recognise adverse effects from dioxin and detrimental health effects. "To recognise adverse effects from dioxin in general is not the same as accepting a specific link between dioxin exposure and illness for Paritutu residents”. he says.
Because of the historical nature of this problem, and because there was no legal requirement to keep records, the health authorities have often used the ‘lack of evidence’ argument to counter the residents’ concerns.

But those affected believe there is ample evidence - for them, it is a case of “none so blind as those who will not see”.

The Cancer Mortality Atlas of New Zealand (1982) recorded New Plymouth’s levels of lymphosarcoma and Hodgkin’s disease at three times the national average. But in 1986 the medical officer of health for Taranaki, Dr Allan Cowan, said there was “not a shred of evidence” to link the diseases with dioxin. The US government now compensates their Vietnam veterans affected by both of these illnesses.

Though the senior health worker’s report was not a commissioned study, it provides the only insight into the escalated appearance of congenital birth defects in the region at the time. Additionally, this increase, which was also a national trend, clearly corresponds with the manufacture of a deadly chemical that was used extensively throughout the country.

fig 4 : {A “real” Kiwi bloke doesn't need protection.} fig 5{BBC World footage shows (top right corner) herbicide being handled by workers in full hazchem gear.}
International environmental consultants Hatfield Consultants Ltd.  have carried out extensive research on the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Their studies have recorded more than twice as many birth defects - 2.9 per cent of all babies - among those exposed to the defoliant.

The senior health worker’s statistics compare markedly. From 1965 to 1971 the number of newborns with defects accounts for 3.1 per cent of all births - that means 1 baby out of every 30 was born with a malformation.

Her study notes, statistics and pictures have been offered to various official bodies, including Dr O'Connor and the Ministry of Health on a number of occasions.

Not once have they been accepted despite the remarkable similarities to Vietnam.
“I am aware that some information was collected by a local midwife some years ago, documenting individual cases of birth defects,” says O'Connor. “I have made some enquiries regarding this information but have not seen it.”
The “midwife”, it should be recognised, was actually a senior health professional employed by the maternity hospital. In a letter to the chairman of "DIAG", written four months before O'Connor report came out, she states: “Personally I have been in contact with your Medical Officer of Health Dr O'Connor and have supplied him with a list of abnormalities that occurred over those years and the statistics”.

In a previous response to the senior health worker’s investigations, a letter from the Department of Health dated 1973 said: “As far as New Plymouth is concerned many of the abnormalities reported from there are very minor and variation has been shown to be due to staff changes”.
“That’s just b/s,” says Gibbs. “There were no staff changes - [the senior health worker] conducted that study from start to finish. If they’re minor why were there so many neural-tube defects? Take a look at the photos and tell me those are minor”.
The study recorded 48 out of the 167 birth deformities as neural-tube defects. These include disorders such as anencephaly (no brain), hydrocephaly (water on the brain), microcephaly (undeveloped brain) and spina bifida.

Ruth Dyson told Investigate that the government had no knowledge of any evidence of birth defects linked to dioxin but they would launch a full and thorough inquiry into the issue if they were offered physical proof.
“The government agencies working with the community in New Plymouth have repeatedly been told of a birth defects study carried out by a local midwife in the 1980s. Despite this study being repeatedly referred to by one New Plymouth resident, and the government agencies repeatedly asking for this evidence, nothing has been forth-coming,” says Dyson.
It appears Dyson has not been fully briefed by her officials.

Patrick O'Connor, in a letter dated February 27th last year (six months before his report was issued and a year before Dyson’s denial cited above), acknowledges receiving “very interesting” information about birth defects from a former New Plymouth health worker, and says “I have passed on the content of your letter to the Ministry”.
“Dr O'Connor told me he had the study,” mutters Andrew Gibbs. “Annie Coglin from the Ministry of Health rang me before Christmas and I told her O'Connor had it. The Ministry of Health, ACC, OSH and the Ministry for the Environment were told about it again at a meeting of Timber Workers, Taranaki residents and John Moller in Whakatane prior to Christmas. It’s a blatant lie that nothing’s been forthcoming. They haven’t even tried,” says Gibbs.
Dyson says the Government cannot accept that Vietnam-like exposure to dioxin occurred in New Plymouth because previous work on body burden (the amount of dioxin carried in the body) in New Zealander's found our levels to be low compared to other countries.

However, Moller says the previous studies were not representative because they failed to investigate the “hot spots” - areas where historical use of 2,4,5-T was particularly high.
“Dyson’s reliance on the environmental audit report is not acceptable because it’s biased,” he says.
“When they took samples they took them from our native forests, not the pine forests which would have been the most contaminated areas.
“In the old days they used to spray all the forestry blocks before they burnt them off”.
They’re looking for carrots in a pumpkin paddock Gibbs believes such insight shows the Government’s ignorance of the subject.
“World Health Organisation tests in 1988 showed we have a concentration of 2,3,7,8-TCDD [dioxin] in breast milk second only to South Vietnam,” he says. “Previous blood serum tests haven’t taken into account that dioxin has a half-life of 7 ½ years” that means it has broken down and will only be about six to 12 percent of the concentration when the worst exposure occurred prior to 1970,” he says.
“The Government have known since 1992 that herbicide applicators had high levels of dioxin. The 86/87 inquiry stated that in a worst case scenario a sprayer would have a dioxin concentration of 2.96ppt [parts per trillion] in their blood after 30 years of use. In 1992 when they tested and found up to 140ppt what did they do for those men? What did they do for their families?
“Why haven’t they informed them that they are in a high risk category for prostate cancer and they need regular health checks?” says Gibbs.
Ruth Dyson told Investigate that the Government had no knowledge of any evidence of birth defects linked to dioxin but they would launch a full and thorough inquiry...if they were offered physical proof.
“He already knows the answer to his own question: it would be an admission of guilt - after all the Government subsidised 2,4,5-T for farm use and hence dioxin has been in our food chain for many years. Several generations of New Zealander's through historic exposure have now drunk, eaten, inhaled and worn dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known to man. As Andrew Gibbs puts it:”It’s bigger than thalidomide”.
But why shouldn't Dow Chemical’s pay restitution? Gibbs believes that the only chance of that happening is if the Government is put under enough pressure to admit what has been going on in this country for the best part of half a century.

That will not be an easy task though. The Dioxin Investigation Network and various others have been fighting for recognition for years now. Many of their colleagues did not want the photos to be published but Gibbs says it is time to ‘get the gloves off and show them what they've suppressed for decades”.
“People may not be interested in dead babies and cancer. It’s one thing to be a guinea pig – it’ another to have to pick up the tab for it though. Dow lied. Dow pays.”
There is hope that the senior health worker will get her closure. The frenzied activity in Wellington following Investigates’ inquiries would suggest something is indeed stirring. However, as the president of the Hatfield group said in a recent interview in a Canadian newspaper: “There are some big chemical companies. The US military is involved. So no matter how good our science, no matter how sincere our health protection plan, people are going to come out of the woodwork and start tearing it to pieces”.

Gibbs knows it.
“A 2001 report by the Ministry for the Environment stated that dioxin is linked to disruption of the immune system, fertility/reproduction, and neurobehavioural outcomes
“Recently Professor Allan Smith stated on TV One our current dioxin levels are close to those that cause birth defects - and they’re currently only 6-12 percent of the peak levels,” he says.
“The Government is responsible for upholding scientific and medical fraud for political reasons.”
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