People living near Dow plant in New Zealand face higher risk of cancer

We’ve talked before about the Dow plant in New Plymouth, New Zealand where an entire town was exposed for decades to dioxin waste, and where reports of illness were routinely dismissed by the corporation. Now the New Zealand Ministry of Health has confirmed that people living nearby have higher dioxin levels in their blood, and may face a future of cancers. For more details follow the link at the foot of this entry.

Mount Taranaki seen from New Plymouth
Somehow, we do not expect this news to be reported in Midland, Michigan, Dow’s home town where the corporation is involved in a battle with local homeowners and environmentalist about massive dioxin contamination of the local river basin. They need our support, go here to learn more.

Midland homeowners are rightly worried about their families’ health.

Idyllic Tittabawassee scene, but property prices are being hit. Dow’s own property is worth less due to dioxin contamination!

Wouldn’t eat that walleye, Cap’n Dan. Michigan Department of Community Health says be very careful.

Health officials confirmed today that blood tests show some people who have lived near the Ivon Watkins Dow agrichemical plant in New Plymouth have elevated levels of dioxin in their blood, and may have a higher risk of falling ill with cancers.
Some of these people may have a 10 per cent higher risk of contracting some types of cancer, the Ministry of Health said.
But it said there was no specific indication of a raised incidence of cancer, because the ministry’s systems did not allow it to track former residents of the Paritutu suburb.
The blood serum tests showed some people had had a “more significant exposure” to certain type of dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD, a by-product of the herbicide 2,4,5-T, the ministry said today.
It was not able to say what this meant for the future health of the affected individuals, but “it is possible that the TCDD levels found may have adverse health consequences, or may cause increased rates of disease, in particular cancer”.
The ministry said that the blood serum study by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), showed that the closer residents live to the Ivon Watkins Dow plant – where 2,4,5-T was made until 18 years ago to spray gorse – the more likely they were to have elevated levels of dioxin in their blood.
Today’s report showed residents who had lived very near to the plant for at least 15 years between 1962 and 1987 were more likely to have higher levels, probably from breathing fumes from the plant, and eating contaminated leafy vegetables from home gardens.
The 52 participants of the study had blood levels of TCDD ranging from 0.85 to 33.3 parts per trillion (ppt). The average TCDD level of this group was 6.5ppt, compared with an expected level of 1.7ppt.
“I have considerable sympathy for those people whose tests showed an elevated level of dioxin,” the director of public health, Mark Jacobs said in a statement.
It was possible there might be a small impact on cancer mortality rates in people who lived within 1km east and 400m south of the plant for more than 15 years during the years 2,4,5-T was manufactured, from 1962 to 1987.
Dr Jacobs said that a local study of specific cancers that had been linked with historical dioxin exposure (lymphocytic leukaemia, soft tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) was expected to be completed in June.
A similar study comparing data on local birth defects with other regions for the decade 1980-1989 would be analysed for any trends in the New Plymouth area that might be associated with past dioxin exposures.
The ministry said there was no treatment for removing dioxin from the body, which naturally excreted every seven to 10 years half of the dioxin it held. But international studies of people with high exposures to dioxins – 100 to 1000 times the levels seen at Paritutu – indicated the cancer risk for some people who lived close the plant for many years might be a small increase above the national all-cancer mortality rate.
Green Party health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley said it should be remembered that because of the body’s natural discharge of dioxin, the person with a level of 33.3 parts per trillion in their body fat probably started out with levels 70 times that of the national average.
She called on the Government to offer free annual medical check-ups and medical treatment to all affected residents, and offer free blood tests to concerned residents who lived near the plant during the peak exposure period.
Ms Kedgley also called on the government to make the Dow corporation liable for the damage they had caused to residents and the environment in New Plymouth.
“The taxpayer shouldn’t be picking up the bill, it should be the company that caused the pollution,” she said.
Public health officials had assured the community that recompense would be sought from Dow AgroSciences – which now ran the Ivon Watkins Dow plant – if it was proven there was a problem, she said.
“It has been proven and now the Government must take steps to get compensation,” she said.

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