Low Levels Of Exposure To Toxic Chemicals: "A Competive Advantage Worth Preserving"

  • Simon Upton

Research findings on organochlorine contaminant levels in New Zealand soil, rivers, estuaries, air, food and in the dietary intake of New Zealanders were released today by the Minister for the Environment, Hon Simon Upton.

"This ground-breaking research shows that the level of these contaminants in air, soil and water are 'generally low' and that New Zealanders have one of the lowest dietary intakes of these chemicals in the western world", Mr Upton said.

"While providing some comfort, this leaves no room for complacency. We will not use these findings to pat ourselves on the back. Rather, this research will assist the Government in preparing national environmental standards and guidelines for these contaminants to safeguard the health of New Zealanders and the quality of our environment".

The contaminants of concern include dioxins, PCBs, and a number of chlorinated pesticides (for example, DDT and dieldrin). The Minister said, "these chemicals have not been used in New Zealand for many years. But a number of industrial sites are contaminated, and dioxins continue to be released in small but significant quantities".

"New Zealand exporters, particularly the food producing sector, place a great store on our being clean and green. Being able to back-up the claims is a real source of competitive advantage. Our limited industrial base and low population density have given us a good start, but it's important that we don't let up. New Zealand industry should seize the opportunity that this research provides and ensure that our industrial and environmental practices maintain our clean status".

The standards to be developed for dioxins and PCBs will be the first national environmental standards under the RMA. To report the findings of this report and to assist in the development this year of national environmental standards, the Ministry will run a series of public meetings on Organochlorines in main centres from 30 September till 14 October.