This page has been archived, and may no longer be up to date

Contamination in New Zealand

Page - December 6, 2006
Dioxins are formed in industrial processes involving chlorine. Burning organic matter in the presence of chlorine, for example waste incineration, burning PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and chlorine-bleached paper, will produce dioxins.

As part of the People Poisoned Daily Tour, 150 people including local residents, Vietnam Vets, Greenpeace, Sawmill Workers Against Poisons, Paritutu Dioxin Investigation Action Group march to DOWs headquarters in Paritutu. The protesters want DOW to set up a nationwide fund to compensate victims of their chemical poisoning.

Some chemicals are contaminated with dioxins, such as pentachlorophenol (PCP), a timber treatment chemical, 245-T and 24D. Both PCP and 245-T are now banned, but 24D is still used in New Zealand.

There are many people in New Zealand exposed to these chemicals through their work places (such as timber treatment workers). Unfortunately most are unable to get government assistance for the medical problems they and their families face.

They have been neglected by the industries that did the polluting and successions of governments alike.

Many workplaces that used these chemicals are now contaminated with dioxins and have not been properly cleaned up. They are a major source of dioxin contamination in New Zealand.

Dioxins do not break down easily and dissolves in body fat, therefore they build up in fatty tissue of humans and animals and stay there for a long time. The main exposure to dioxin is through eating meat and dairy products, and seafood. However exposure through the skin and inhalation can also occur.

Dioxins cause cancer and can interfere with people's immune and hormone systems, which can result in a whole range of health effects, including birth defects, endometriosis and diabetes. They are also passed down through generations.

A New Zealand Government report states that more than 1 in 1000 New Zealanders may be dying from cancer because of dioxin contamination. This figure does not take into account the non-lethal effects of dioxin, such as birth defects, behavioural problems, diabetes and many other serious health impacts.

People who have been contaminated with dioxins must have help from the government to address their health issues. Many New Zealand families are struggling with serious health problems because of exposure to dioxins. These people must not be left to struggle on their own, they must be acknowledged, given medical assistance and have their voices heard.

There are hundreds of dioxin contaminated sites and sources in New Zealand and significant quantities of deadly dioxin are still legally pumped into our environment every single day.

To illustrate the problem of dioxin in New Zealand Greenpeace created the following websites:

Toxics Map

In 2000 Greenpeace developed an interactive map of sources of dioxin pollution in New Zealand to highlight dioxin sites and to identify who is responsible for this pollution. It demonstrates the extent of dioxin contamination in our country.

The Toxics Map website information has not been updated since its creation. However, we continue to make it available as we believe there have not been substantial changes and it is a valuable account of the state of our polluted land.

To identify dioxin sites and related information for this project, Greenpeace relied directly on information from the Ministry for the Environment's "New Zealand Inventory of Dioxin Emissions to air, land and water, and reservoir sources" (March 2000), Regional Councils, Greenpeace reports, the United States Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) reports, and in some cases the site operators. Greenpeace has not independently evaluated this information. Greenpeace cannot warrant the correctness of the dioxin inventory estimates, which have been sourced directly from the Ministry for the Environment's own report, and disclaims all liability whatsoever for any consequences that might result from the use of the information or emission estimates.

The 'Face of Dioxin' Exhibition

This is a photographic and testimonial exhibition created in 2001 by Greenpeace, in conjunction with many people around New Zealand that have been adversely affected by dioxins.

People from Whakatane, Kawerau, Matata and New Plymouth tell their stories about the devastating effects dioxin contamination has had on their health, families and environment.

These testimonials have not been edited since they were written in 2001, so people's situations may have changed. However, we have kept this information online for people to read about the reality of dioxin poisoning in New Zealand.

We thank the people featured in this website, and their families, for making this exhibition possible, and extend our sincerest sympathy to the families who have had their loved ones in the exhibition pass away since this information was recorded.

People Poisoned Daily Tour

In 2005 Greenpeace, together with the Sawmill Workers Against Poisons (SWAP), Vietnam Veterans of Aotearoa, Paritutu Dioxin Investigation Action Group and Te Waka Kai Ora (Maori organics group) organised the Hohou te Rongo - People Poisoned Daily Speaking Tour.

People have been poisoned daily. Every event on this five-stop tour was led by communities impacted by toxic chemicals.

The tour's focus was on dioxin poisoning. Urgent action is needed to stop the dumping of lethal toxic waste which is produced daily by industries throughout the country. Dioxins are banned by international laws, but industries are still pumping them into our air, water and soil.

Industry's dumping of deadly waste on people goes beyond the pollution of the environment. Over the past fifty years, hazardous by-products of industrial society have been dumped into our waters and soils, endangering the health of New Zealanders.