New Zealand: Ministry seeks extra dioxin expert to review report of poisoning from Dow plant

Stuff.co.nz, November 2, 2006
The Health Ministry wants an additional expert to independently review a dioxin poisoning report, after critics questioned the independence of a ministry-appointed scientist.
Deputy director-general of health (public health) Don Matheson said it would approach the World Health Organisation for advice about appointing the extra reviewer.
The move could be seen as a partial concession after the Green party questioned the independence of ministry-appointed scientist Professor Allan Smith to review the dioxin report.
Critics have said the report is seriously flawed.
The Government announced last month that Professor Smith – a scientist at the University of California – would review questions raised by forensic accountant John Leonard about the ministry report on a New Plymouth chemical plant.
In a TV3 documentary shown last month, Mr Leonard said high levels of dioxin contamination at the Ivon Watkins- Dow factory in Paritutu were obscured by poor methodology in last year’s ministry report.
Ivon Watkins-Dow, now called DowAgro Sciences, made the herbicide 245T from 1962 to 1987. A by-product was a type of dioxin. Dioxins can cause birth defects, diabetes and some rare cancers.
Dr Matheson said the ministry believed the original report on dioxin exposure in Paritutu was of a “high, international standard”.
It would have been unusual to provide peer reviewers of that report with individual serum results. The reviewers were given analysed anonymised data from the individual data tables in line with normal accepted practice, he said.
“However, given the public concern about the integrity of this process the ministry has taken these steps to reassure former Paritutu residents and the wider New Zealand public.”
The ministry planned to complete the process promptly. “We believe the most appropriate way to maintain public confidence is to make the overall process as transparent as possible and to complete it quickly.”

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