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Chemical Poisoning information on chemicals and solvents

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 10:29 AM

Moth spray can harm: secret study
18 April 2004

Painted apple moth spray may cause chronic respiratory diseases if inhaled, says a confidential study that contradicts government assurances that the spray is safe.

With the next aerial spray run over Waitakere City scheduled for Tuesday, the Health Ministry has been sitting on the study by internationally-recognised experts for two months without making it public.

Green MP Sue Kedgley and residents' groups said the spray run must be called off: "The spraying is being done on the basis of assurances that have been called into question, and assumptions that have been proved to be false."

But Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton attacked the study as flawed, unsound and biased and said the Tuesday spray run would go ahead. "I'm responsible for getting rid of pests that threaten all manner of good things in New Zealand and I'll do what I have to do."

The same Foray 48B spray was used for white-spotted tussock moth in east Auckland, Asian gypsy moth in Hamilton, and is the first choice for moth infestations elsewhere if biosecurity is breached.

The Wellington School of Medicine study, commissioned by the Health Ministry, criticises the health all-clear given by the Environmental Risk Management Authority. The study is understood to recommend Erma reassess the spray and to find that it could seriously aggravate existing health conditions in older people. The authors recommend further research.

Residents attributed symptoms including headaches, sore throats, diarrhoea, vomiting and rashes to the spray.

Spray opponent Sue Berman demanded the spraying be stopped until people could consider the report. "They're sitting on this report, knowing what it says, while they continue spraying. They don't want it out till they've finished their spray programme."

But Sutton, who has not yet seen the study, said it might never be publicly released because the peer reviews condemned it as "so flawed and so unsound that it needs to be completely reworked.

"Wellington School of Medicine don't accept that so there's a stand-off as to whether the report is worth the paper it's written on," he said. "There have been numerous other reports which say it is safe, although it can exacerbate existing conditions."

Professor John Nacey, dean of the school of medicine, said the school stood by the researchers and was confident the work was professional and dispassionate.

The peer reviewers are understood to have included a public health physician, representatives of Hamilton City Council and Auckland District Health Board, and Donald Hannah from Erma. Hannah defended Erma's assessment of the spray as safe, saying the study's conclusions were speculative and its hypothesis untested that the spray was being deeply inhaled as bioaerosol particles.

The study's lead author Dr Simon Hales said the authors were unhappy with the delays to the report's release. "I'm not an anti-spray campaigner, I'm principally a scientist. We're not in a position to say the spray does cause adverse effects, but we certainly feel there is the potential for it to cause effects.",00.html

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 12:13 AM

A response to the above article "Moth Spray Can Harm: Secret Study"

This study was done by the Wellington School of Medicine.

It is interesting to see Biosecurity Minister attacked this study "as flawed, unsound and biased. Yet the article also states that Sutton "has not seen the report."

Sutton claims "peer reviews condemned it as "so flawed and so insound that it needs to be completely reworked."

The question needs to be asked, "who were the peer reviewers?" It says they include a public health physician, representatives of Hamilton City Council and Auckland District Health Board and Donald Hannah from Erma. A number of questions beg answering. For example:

1. What qualifications did the unidentified representatives of the Hamilton City Council and Auckland District Health Board have that gave them peer review qualifications? Were they biological scientists? Toxicologists? Did they have any health qualifications at all? Or were their interests purely fiscal?

2. Who was the unidentified public health physician and what toxicological or biological science qualifications did he/she have - if any at all?

3. What toxicological or biological science qualifications does Donald Hannah have?

4. The word "include" suggests there were other peer reviewers. Who were they and what were their qualifications?

5. Importantly, if Sutton can claim these mainly unidentified people are so much more reliable than the Wellington School of Medicine, why has he not identified them all, publicised their qualifications and publicised why he found their opinions so enormously more reliable?

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Posted 19 May 2004 - 12:08 AM

Intersting article:
Barren Justice: Banana Workers Fight for Pesticide Settlement

Former banana workers in Nicaragua face many obstacles in getting compensation from multinationals for pesticide exposure on the plantations.

By Sasha Lilley
Special to CorpWatch
May 13, 2004

Francisco Gonzáles believes he lost his chance to be a father because of the pesticide DBCP. "I can't have children," says Gonzáles, who began working in the banana plantations of Chinandega, Nicaragua, in 1975, when he was 20 years old. "It's very painful, you know, each one of us would like to have our own child, a child of our blood. But I was poisoned."

Gonzáles said that he was exposed to DBCP, the key chemical in the pesticides Nemagon and Fumazone, while he worked as a sprayer. "We first sprayed water and, later at night, we sprayed the pesticide over the entire plantation, spraying poison all night long. This poison stayed on the leaves and the other people who worked during the day were also affected by it."

Gonzáles is one of tens of thousands of plantation workers in Central America, the Caribbean, Western Africa, and the Philippines who have sued several U.S. corporations for exposure to DBCP over the last two decades. In March, Nicaraguan banana workers brought a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Dole, Dow, Occidental, and Shell, among other corporations, alleging that exposure to DBCP made them sterile. DBCP, or dibromo-chloropropane, was banned in the United States in 1979, but U.S. chemical companies continued to export it until the mid-1980s.

The results from these lawsuits, which add up to more than $11 billion in claimed damages, have so far been disappointing for the workers, and the legal process they have gone through demonstrates the obstacles workers in developing countries face when they attempt to win damages from transnational companies. While some DBCP cases were settled out of court, the awards workers received were relatively small, and many other lawsuits have been stymied by legal and political barriers and may be impeded in the future by free trade agreements.


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Posted 11 June 2004 - 09:18 AM

Samsung Commits to phase out hazardous chemicals
Friday, 11 June 2004, 8:57 am
Press Release: Greenpeace

Samsung Commits to phase out hazardous chemicals

Consumer electronics company upgraded on Greenpeace products database

Brussels, 10 June 2004 -- Consumer electronics company Samsung has decided to phase out hazardous chemicals used in its consumer electronics. These chemicals are those that persist in the environment because they are not easily degraded.

Samsung's decision was prompted by Greenpeace, which tested a Samsung mobile phone and television, among a wide range of consumer products. Phthalates, brominated flame retardants, synthetic musks, alkylphenols or organotin compounds were found in most of the products tested [1]. The environmental organisation published the results on its website [2].

In the last few months, Greenpeace has held discussions with Samsung about its use of brominated flame retardants and phthalates. As a result, Samsung has agreed a definite schedule within its substance policy to phase out the use of these chemicals and switch to cleaner alternatives. This pledge upgrades Samsung's ranking on the Greenpeace products database from red to orange, making Samsung the first producer to have its rating upgraded since the start of the campaign.

"Samsung is setting a trend in the field of substitution of hazardous chemicals in consumer products," says Bart van Opzeeland of Greenpeace. "This should serve as an example for other companies and provide a roadmap for a new strict European chemicals policy, which the EU is currently developing."

Gregor Margetson, Head of European Environmental Affairs for Samsung Electronics Europe said: "Samsung Electronics has always taken environmental issues seriously and our work with Greenpeace shows we welcome constructive input on such subjects. Their initial criticism motivated us to re-evaluate our goals and consider what is truly possible. We choose to take the difficult option because we have ambitions to become a more sustainable company, and we realise that this prize comes at a price."[3]

During the production, use and waste phase of a product, these 'substances of very high concern' end up in the environment. Traces of these man-made chemicals - which can be hazardous even in small doses (some are notorious hormone disrupters) - have been found all over the world, from the Alps to the North Pole. In a recent Greenpeace report, 'The Poison Link - the story nobody wants to hear' [4], seven scientists unite in agreeing that these kinds of chemicals do not belong in our environment or in the bodies of human beings and animals.

From 1 July, the Netherlands will hold the six-month presidency of the European Union. Greenpeace therefore calls on Dutch State Secretary Pieter Van Geel to work towards a strict EU chemicals policy (REACH) that bans the production and use of hazardous chemicals, and requires industry to substitute such chemicals with safer alternatives, where these are available. Alternatives already exist for many hazardous chemicals and applications.

As some ready-to-use alternatives have yet to be found, Samsung has also committed to seek substitutes for the hazardous chemicals that it currently uses, supporting innovation of new, cleaner chemicals. "Our decision-making process is based on sound common sense," said Gregor Margetson. "We consider all available information, and if necessary back up suspicions with scientific research to confirm the best course of action. In special cases, such as that of suspected links between chemicals and harm to health or the environment, we are prepared to take action where the evidence is not yet scientifically confirmed, but where it is sufficient to cause concern. Matching moral concerns against commercial realities is never easy, but we like to think that we try to do the right thing."


[1] Download report

[2] Greenpeace database of hazardous chemicals in products at:

[3] For details of Samsung's environmental commitments and chemical control program, see

[4] Poison Link report - in Dutch (executive summary in English) at

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 11:09 AM

The fat lady sings

Posted Image
(November/December 1998)

As a medical radiation technologist I have experienced a lot of things and learned much. Of these, the most unpleasant has been chemical sensitivity. Reading about it has got to be a great deal more comfortable than living with it.

I am deeply in debt to doctors skilled in clinical ecology and classical homoeopathy for the restoration of pretty good health over several years. You do not recover merely by ceasing employment in a chosen career. What happens is far from a quick process. Indeed, no one has become really ill very quickly

Initially, the liver is able to cope with detoxification and what cannot be excreted is stored in body fat, and then in other tissues. As the toxic load continues, and the liver “clogs”, the body runs out of “normal” storage room. The mitochondria in the cells become less able to respire normally. This appears to me the reason for early exercise intolerance under load, and for increasing fatigue as the toxic contact continues.

In hindsight, I can see how my life closed down until I was coping with work and household and not a great deal else - feeling as if I was working at normal level, but with my peak performance gradually and subtly lowering over several years. Perceptions became increasingly clouded by worsening short term memory loss and mental confusion.

Gluteraldehyde causes respiratory symptoms. As if that isn’t enough, it also acts as a solvent and has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, giving symptoms of chronic solvent neurotoxicity. The final response from a thoroughly indignant body to the continuous assault comes from the auto-immune system. Sensitization to the offending chemical is followed by cross-sensitization upon exposure to other closely related chemicals. These include formaldehyde (the Poisons Centre holds a 200-page database of products containing this) and acetaldehydes, and probably ketones, as they are only one carbonyl group different.

Tiny exposures cause distress

Small wonder you seem to react to everything. It is utterly astonishing - and ultimately very demoralising - that exposure to such tiny amounts of fumes can cause immediate and severe distress. Everything from the supermarket household cleaners aisle, the fabric dressing on a single new sheet, the formaldehyde vapour released from a filling when a cusp breaks from a tooth, the builder painting across the road.

The cell mitochondria responsible for basic respiration are eventually damaged by being unable to function normally. Adequate Vitamin C is required to protect against escaping free radicals, and this is why such ill people can tolerate such vast quantities of it. The Vitamin C mops up the out-of-control free radical production. (A normal rate of free radical production is what helps rust out or age the body.)

Furthermore, the RNA (ribonucleic acid, linked to protein synthesis) which controls the repair of the mitochondria resides in the mitochondria themselves - hence the inherent difficulty of treating chronic fatigue. I believe the reason why there is currently no orthodox test for the vast array of confusingly general symptoms displayed is the difficulty of looking at cellular function. This is research work requiring an electron microscope.

Barely coping with life

“You look well!” was a frequently expressed outside observation. Personally I would never have believed it possible to feel so overwhelmingly bloody ill. So devastated, physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. An initial reaction to excessive fumes (not seen at the time as so significant) was the beginning of a slow downhill slide over several years to undeniable woe. I used to be fit. After five months’ recuperation and then trying a day back at work, I found myself barely coping with life. A 20 minute bike ride exhausted me for the day. Unable to see past the end of my nose, unable to reason properly or recall anything I read immediately afterwards, or digest my normal food, I was as ill-tempered as a rhinoceros with cake crumbs under its skin.

The advice to “have another go at work, another day can’t set you back” proved disastrously wrong, even though the ventilation had been vastly improved in the meantime. So prolonged chemical contact is not at all something to ignore. If you maintain constant chemical contact you will suffer increasingly compromised health - sooner, if any other immuno-suppressant factors intervene, or later by virtue of simply being there.

An unwholesome brew

Film processing brings one into contact with an unwholesome brew of chemicals, supreme among which is gluteraldehyde - known to cause, or suspected of causing, many health effects, and a known carcinogen and mutagen (an agent whose effects are more likely to appear in the second generation). In Britain, it was recently made a Maximum Exposure Level chemical with a greatly reduced permissible exposure level.

The latest research on isocyanate sensitivity suggests that absorption by skin is as damaging as inhalation. Many doctors appear uneducated in and unaware of the lead-up symptoms of chemical-related ill health. Because these are general, vague and largely untestable, there is a bias towards diagnosing an illness belief, especially when cross-sensitisation to other chemicals occurs.

The whole thing is currently a ragingly contentious issue, which is extremely unhelpful to those of us who are ill. We just want to be treated like other sick people, and have medical people accept the chemical factor and help us to get on with normal life.

Recovery not smooth and steady

For me, day-to-day life was once reduced to a matter of mere survival. Now, several years later, I can once more lead a reasonably normal lifestyle. The regime I followed included a change of diet, supplements, sauna, stringent use of a carbon filter mask, avoidance of fumes generally, plus homoeopathics. Recovery was not smooth and steady. On a couple of occasions I was very scared that I had progressed as far as I was ever going to, and on neither occasion was it a life to look forward to.

I have been fortunate to be able to focus on retraining as a music teacher. At present I teach for 20 hours a week and study towards a qualification, and I manage a good proportion of the household chores as well. Because I still react minimally to a much reduced array of chemicals, I am very careful to avoid prolonged exposure to anything that causes physical discomfort. I still take some supplements to help with remaining symptoms of chronic fatigue, but this too will eventually resolve itself.

So do not discount or overlook a chronic work environment factor if you don’t feel quite right with no apparent reason. This illness is not clear-cut but results in an insidiously vague and general progression of symptoms over a number of years. Getting past it is not a short term project either. It was an unnecessary experience for me, one which should be avoided at all costs.

But the fat lady has begun to sing once more.

The author has requested a degree of anonymity in order not to prejudice her attempts to secure further employment. She wishes to thank everyone who assisted her in her struggle back to better health


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Posted 23 June 2004 - 08:36 AM

Cockroach spray puts workers in hospital
23 June 2004

Work and Income Department staff were taken to hospital with respiratory problems when the wrong cockroach spray apparently was used in their Gisborne office.

Police and Department of Child, Youth and Family Services staff who were also working in the Lowe St building were among the estimated 50 people evacuated just after 11am yesterday.

Work and Income's East Coast regional commissioner Lindsay Scott said the building's owner arranged for it to be sprayed for cockroaches and fleas after the Work and Income office closed on Monday night.

When its 30 or so staff arrived at work yesterday morning, some began to feel sick and developed rashes.

At least four people were taken to Gisborne Hospital. Most suffered from respiratory problems and one man had irritated, burning skin.

They were kept in hospital and monitored yesterday afternoon.

It appeared that the inside of the building was sprayed with insecticide designed to be used outdoors, Mr Scott said.

Gisborne Fire Service senior station officer Neal Jones said the hazardous substance technical liaison committee was investigating how best to clean up the spray.

Meanwhile, the building had been cordoned off and people working in offices nearby had been alerted.

Mr Scott said Work and Income clients should visit the department's other Gisborne office if they needed the department's help urgently tillbefore the affected office reopened.,00.html

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Posted 23 June 2004 - 08:42 AM

50,000 troops in Gulf illness scare

James Meikle, health correspondent
Friday June 11, 2004
The Guardian

All 50,000 troops who served in the first Gulf war might have been exposed to low levels of chemical warfare agents during the fighting and its aftermath, a US investigation has suggested.

The implication of a Congressional report that large numbers of civilians and troops in Iraq and neighbouring countries could have been exposed will galvanise the controversy over illnesses suffered by more than 5,000 British veterans since 1991 that have been linked to their service in the Gulf.

The report indicates that possible chemical contamination of troops could have been much more widespread than suggested by previous official government estimates, based on US research for the Pentagon and CIA.

Lord Morris, the Labour peer who has led the campaign on Gulf war illnesses, yesterday demanded answers from the government, saying it appeared the entire British deployment of more than 50,000 troops could have been at risk.

The MoD used the US defence department models to estimate that 9,000 British troops were within the chemical plume that might have been released from the destruction of chemical agents at Khamisaya, in southern Iraq, in March 1991. This figure was revealed in 1999. Previously, the government said no British units would have been affected, although one Briton might have been under a plume.

More than 5,000 British veterans have reported illnesses they believe related to the Gulf war or the inoculations they received before deployment and more than 600 have died. The government has refused to accept any suggestion that there is a "syndrome" but points to its £8.5m research programme to prove its commitment to finding answers.

The government's current position is that the possible level of nerve agent exposure from Khamisaya would have had "no detectable effect" on human health, and the Pentagon still insists the information was the best available and any researcher would know limitations of the data. The CIA also agreed with the report.

But the general accounting office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, last week said the assumptions used by the Pentagon were based on incomplete and uncertain data and that postwar testing to replicate the size of the plume "did not realistically simulate the actual conditions of bombings or demolitions".

The Pentagon, including the bombing of other sites in Iraq, estimated that nearly 102,000 US troops were potentially exposed. But the GAO concluded that, given the significant methodological flaws, neither the Pentagon nor the MoD could know which troops were and which troops were not exposed.

Lord Morris, an honorary member of a US congressional sub-committee investigating undiagnosed illnesses, said: "This is a profoundly significant report not only for US veterans but for ours as well."

He has tabled a parliamentary question to ministers on the issue.,00.html

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Posted 23 June 2004 - 08:59 AM

"Work and Income Department staff were taken to hospital with respiratory problems when the wrong cockroach spray apparently was used in their Gisborne office."
Pity it was'nt ACC they would have eradicated all the cockroaches.

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 09:36 AM

F-111 workers 'at higher cancer risk'

An Australian Defence Force (ADF) study has found 900 servicemen who worked on F-111s in the 1970s, '80s and '90s have an increased risk of developing cancer.

The study assessed the risk for those who worked on the F-111 re-seal/de-seal fuel tank maintenance program.

Two years ago, the ADF released a report which found 400 workers at its Amberley Air Force Base near Brisbane were exposed to chemicals which made them sick.

A study was ordered to assess the risk of cancer and that report has now been released.

The new report's author, John Attia, says he firmly believes there is a link between the fuel tank program and cancer.

"Basically what the study found was that there appears to be a 50 per cent increase in the incidence of cancer among the people who worked on 'de-seal/re-seal," Dr Attia said.

He added: "Certainly this study does support - there is some evidence there for their claims.

"We obviously can't be 100 per cent certain, all we can actually say now is there does appear to be an association but we can't pinpoint what the positive factor was."

Lawyer Simon Harrison, a Brisbane lawyer representing many of the maintenance workers, hopes the latest findings will help ADF workers achieve full recognition of their illnesses and compensation from the Government.

"It means that at long last they've actually been vindicated," he said.

"In terms of liability aspects, this report has really nailed the Commonwealth so far as cancer is concerned.

"I just hope that the Commonwealth fully accepts these recommendations."

A spokesman for the ADF says the findings will require further analysis and will form part of a wider health report due by the end of the year.

He says the Department of Veterans Affairs will consider the report in determining eligibility for compensation and ongoing care for those affected.

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 04:30 PM

NZ Food Safe From Chemical Residues
17/07/2004 09:17 PM

New Zealand food has been given the all-clear for chemical residues.

The Food Safety Authority has just completed a survey of 45,000 samples of foods including fruit and vegetables and takeaways.

It looked for elements like cadmium and lead, as well as nutrients like iodine, sodium and residues from herbicides and pesticides.

Spokeswoman Cherie Flynn says the authority does not believe people need to be worried about exposure to chemicals and contaminants in food.
The results are also seen as pat on the back for the rural sector.

Cherie Flynn says there were only three minor cases where results were slightly above the maximum levels, involving chicken nuggets, celery and capsicum.

She says it indicates the vast majority of producers are complying with good agricultural practice.

Ms Flynn says the authority is working with producers to get residue levels even lower.

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 08:57 AM

How long did it take to test 45,000 different samples. For a 365 day year it equates to 123 a day. This sounds like bullshit to me.

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Posted 21 July 2004 - 07:55 AM

Bhopal victims' payout, 20 years late
By Paul Brown
July 21, 2004

India's Supreme Court has ordered the Government to distribute money held in a bank to more than half a million victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy who have been waiting 20 years.

Legal wrangles have left destitute most of those who suffered injury in the world's worst industrial accident. But this week the court ruled that money held in the Bank of India since 1989, currently worth $A444 million, must be paid out.

In December 1984, tonnes of toxic gas leaked from a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide in the central Indian city of Bhopal, killing 3800 people almost immediately. Since then, campaigners claim, more than 20,000 people have died from related illnesses.

Of the approximately 520,000 people exposed to the poisonous methyl isocyanate gas, they say some 120,000 remain chronically ill. Many victims still suffer shortness of breath and a burning sensation in their chests and throats.

The ruling follows a test case by 36 victims, one from each district affected by the tragedy, on behalf of the 566,876 Bhopal survivors and relatives whose claims have been successfully lodged.

Other survivors, whose claims may have been wrongly dismissed or who were underpaid, were directed by the court to file a separate application, and seek compensation from the Indian Government.

Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemical, paid out $638 million in compensation to residents in 1989, but only a part of that sum has been distributed. The remainder has increased in value due to interest being added and currency fluctuations.

India's top court has ordered the Government to pay out the sum now in the bank, about 15 billion rupees ($444 million).

Although the rupee value of the compensation has risen significantly, it still only amounts to just over $765 a person. But there was jubilation in the city, with a large party to celebrate.

"It is a positive development as the victims' voices have been heard," said Srinivasan Muralidhar, a lawyer for the 36 victims in the test case. "It is a balm to the wounds, but there's always a gap between the court's orders and the way it is implemented, so we shall keep our fingers crossed."

Full payment of the compensation had been delayed because of bureaucratic wrangling over how to categorise the victims. The court directed the money to be distributed on a pro-rata basis among the victims and relatives of the dead and injured.

The Indian Government continues to pursue criminal charges against the former Union Carbide chairman, Warren Anderson, who has retired and lives in New York state.

The polluted site of the abandoned factory is still said to be poisoning the groundwater used by local people. Campaigners said Dow Chemical should pay to clean up the toxic mess.

-Guardian, New York Times

Gas victims celebrate their victory near the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal.

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Posted 31 August 2004 - 11:13 AM


Sharon Sowers and Janet Kanepp, 157 Maple Dr, New Holland, PA 17557, USA or email: <[email protected]> have a questionnaire investigating some of these health effects. WASTE (Workers Against Senseless Toxic Exposure) is their group in the USA - currently they have 92 medical personnel injured by GA.

WASTE Web site: <> .

GASPING (Glutaraldehyde Affected Support Persons) -sub group of Injured Nurses’ Group operates in Victoria, Australia. Contact: Irene Gregory ph: 9470-099 <[email protected]> , Gaby Barnewall ph: 9439-9652 or Anne Rutter ph: 9 808-1509, P O Box 49, Burwood, Victoria 3125.

Rick Carlton has set-up the: GLUTARALDEHYDE, ALDEHYDE, AND SOLVENT SENSITIVITY LISTSERVER - GASSLIST!) This list has been established to serve persons interested in these sensitivities (especially Xray personnel and nurses) - to promote internet-wide exchange of research and information. 20 subscribers joined in the first 24 hours.

To subscribe to the list send a normal email message to: [email protected] with a message of subscribe gasslist

For MCSS Networks see Web site list p. 54.

**Be awarethat if you are having surgery with instruments sterilised in GA, there are in the Bibliog several papers reporting reactions from improperly rinsed instruments. (Cidex-induced synovitis, Harner et al, 1989. Endoscope induced colitis, Rozen et al, 1994. Glutaraldehyde Colitis, Birnbaum, 1995).

Because the chemicals have such wide-ranging effects, and because many GPs, who generally make the first contact with the patients, and specialists, lack knowledge of the chemicals, confirmation of these wide-ranging effects is sometimes difficult to obtain. Specialists with excellent knowledge of chemical poisoning must be used. Good taking of work history is very important if chemical damage is suspected. Most research has so far focussed on the skin, eye, nose and respiratory effects of glutaraldehyde, with published and unpublished studies since 1968. Many show that people are affected at levels far below the accepted standards and in unsuspected ways. (See SNFTAAS Bibliography: Axon et al, Collier, Norbach, Jachuk et al, Binding/Wittig, Campbell/Cripps, Carslake, Calder, Trigg et al, Ide, Leinster et al, Tkaczuk et al, Griffiths, Gannon et al, Scobbie et al, Vyas, Care G. ) Neurotoxic effects have been looked at more recently in NZ, Australia and the USA.


(See also The Solvent Connection p. 34)

Good information is beginning to emerge in this area of glutaraldehyde damage. Professor Des Gorman states that research conducted in Adelaide, Australia by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, shows that glutaraldehyde removes the surfactant lining of cerebral

endothelium and hence damages the blood-brain- barrier. “Any agent that impairs the BBB can cause both direct and secondary (by allowing the ingress of other toxins) brain damage. Hence glutaraldehyde is a plausible cause of neurotoxicity.” (Letter to Dr John Monigatti, ACC Workwise, 8 Aug, 1997).

In an Australian paper, three staff cleaning endoscopes in a theatre had been exposed to GA. Testing was by the auditory evoked response potential (AERP) method which measures how long the brain takes to react to stimuli. They showed prolonged response time and a dysfunction related to depression of the brain’s cortical function[1] [the area which controls higher mental functions, perception and behaviour, movement, and the functioning of the main organs]. Dr Teo has subsequently investigated a further 50 nurses; he received his PhD for the development of the AERP test. He has also seen 6 workers in the mining industry affected by glutaraldehyde. [Dr Richard Teo, PO Box 109, Jannali, NSW, 2226, Australia, ph: 041-9268 874, <[email protected]>.]

Other neuropsychological testing is underway in West Australian health care workers as part of work by Leonie Coxon for a doctorate in forensic psychology.

Of 50 New Zealand SNFTAAS members with glutaraldehyde or formaldehyde exposure, 21 have had neuropsychological testing and all 21 have demonstrated neuropsychological damage classified as mild or moderate. Of these, 13 have been accepted for ACC compensation, 7 are awaiting ACC decisions, 1 is in dispute (with associated epilepsy which post-dates and which she is sure is associated with her chemical exposure). The label is often “chronic glutaraldehyde-induced neurotoxicity with fatigue as a significant feature”. [GIN - no tonic!]. Three members have formaldehyde exposure and the rest, 18, are glutaraldehyde-exposed in either X-ray or theatre.

Two papers presented at the Marj Gordon Memorial Seminar, Palmerston North, NZ, March, 1997, examine neuropsychological effects. Dr Bill Glass looked at 13 patients who were mainly nurses using GA as a sterilant or bench wipe (Group A), and 13 who had worked with a chemical cocktail which included GA or, for 2, formaldehyde and benzaldehyde (Group B) in hospital photographic or X-ray departments. 12/13 in Group A, and 7/13 in Group B reported mood, memory, and concentration problems. 10 of Group A were given Hogstedt et al’s ‘Questionnaire 16’ (a recently validated test for early disturbance in CNS function for suspected solvent neurotoxicity). “Evidence of memory, mood and concentration impairment was evident.” More detailed short battery neuropsychological tests were completed by 4 patients, and a full clinical evaluation was carried out on 6 patients. “These tests further confirm the neuropsychological damage suffered by patients”.[2]

Dr Dorothy Gronwall presented a composite case study, “Jane”, based on 3 cases. “Jane’s” pre-morbid ability was in the above average intellectual ability group. In visual perception her copy of the muddly Rey- Osterreith complex figure was not well-organised and was inaccurate and incomplete... This was probably the result of poor frontal lobe function rather than perceptual deficit. Memory for non-verbal material was significantly below average. Attention and concentration: Several tests given including PASAT (Paced Auditory Serial Addition) which showed significantly slowed information processing. Language: significantly below average on controlled word fluency and a faster than normal falloff over time on task which is typical in cases of frontal lobe dysfunction. Executive function: the ability to organise and check what has been done showed impairment consistent with frontal lobe dysfunction. Reaction times: Significantly slower on a computer target test and more so to targets on the right.

Other factors: Intellectual handicap was unlikely; poor motivation unlikely - she did poorly on some tests not on others, and poorly on more interesting tests yet produced excellent scores on more tedious tests; malingering - perhaps she had done some homework and knew the sorts of results she should produce eg low scores on verbal memory, but she scored above average here. Also PASAT is very hard to fake believable scores on. Depression: one would not expect only some scores to be depressed, and only one peripheral vision field to be slower. Closed head injury: no traumatic brain injury - never been knocked out. Substance abuse: “Jane” denied taking alcohol or other mind-altering drugs. Substance abuse is unlikely to have resulted in this pattern of scores.

“It is never possible to produce a definite diagnosis from a neuropsychological assessment. All that can be produced are probabilities, not certainties. So what I can do is to make the statement that these tests are entirely consistent with the history of chemical exposure.”[3]


[1]Teo R.C.K, Naidu V.A. The effects of GA exposure on human brain function, (presented to Work-Cover Australia, 13th Conference of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists, 1994).

[2]Glass W E. Exposure to glutaraldehyde alone or in a fume mix: A review of 26 cases. Shadows, 1997, 40, 2. Note, Table 4 is omitted in the Shadows’ reprint of the paper.(Copies of table available from SNFTAAS). Shadows is the journal of the New Zealand Society of Radiographers and Medical Radiation Technologists. It is not in Index Medicus. Address is c/o Department of Clinical Oncology,

Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch 2, New Zealand.

[3]Gronwall Dorothy, Neuropsychological Assessment: A Case Study. Shadows, 1997, 40, 2.

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Posted 01 September 2004 - 01:17 PM

Twenty taken to hospital after chemical spill


Twenty people were taken to hospital today after a toxic chemical spill at a cheese factory north of Wellington.

The Fire Service was called to the spill at the Kapiti Cheese factory at Paraparaumu about 8.15am.

About 20 firefighters and five fire engines from Paraparaumu, Lower Hutt and Waikanae, and the Lower Hutt decontamination unit were at the scene, a fire service communications spokesman told NZPA.

The spill was brought under control and was being cleared up.

The spokesman could not confirm details of the spill, but said it was believed to be a small amount of a "cleaning substance".

Chemical experts had been called into analyse the chemical.

"Whatever it was, it was quite toxic."

The 20 people, thought to be mostly staff and some customers, were taken to hospital for observation.

It was not known if any had been injured or admitted for treatment, he said.

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 10:50 AM

Mercury poisoning symptoms high among some Natives

Canadian Press

WINNIPEG — A renowned Japanese neurologist who sounded the alarm decades ago about mercury poisoning in residents of two northern Ontario aboriginal bands says some people there are experiencing an increase in symptoms even though the chemical's level is dropping in their bodies.

Dr. Masazumi Harada visited Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemong reserves over the last week. On Thursday, he said while mercury levels in band members - measured through hair samples - are dropping, some residents' symptoms from long-term exposure, such are impaired motor skills and fatigue, are increasing.

Harada's findings prompted the reserves' leaders to call on the federal and Ontario governments to launch a public inquiry.

"It should not be the Canadian way to permit this . . . . to linger any longer," Grassy Narrows chief Simon Fobister told reporters.

"If this was a Walkerton . . . . governments would have acted much more swiftly and decisively," Fobister said.

The Ontario government held a public inquiry after seven people died and thousands got sick after E. coli got into the water in Walkerton in 2000.

The mercury problems in northwestern Ontario date back decades.

In 1970, a pulp mill in Dryden was identified as the source of mercury contamination of fish in the region's river system, and was ordered to stop dumping the chemical.

Harada found signs of mercury poisoning among reserve residents in 1975. Symptoms included twitches, dizziness, eye problems and severe birth defects.

Harada is renowned for his work with residents of Minamata Bay in Japan, where heavy industries dumped mercury into the water and contaminated the fish supply, causing more than 100 people to die from neurological disorders.

In 1985, the bands received more than $16.6 million in compensation from the company and provincial and federal governments. The bands were also given $1 million each to help cover future medical expenses.

The increase in symptoms could be due to aging and diseases such as diabetes, Harada said.

As well, fish with very low levels of mercury that are deemed safe for most people may not be safe for those who have had long-term exposure to mercury, he added.

Because the effects of the mercury are not going away, aboriginal leaders argue more compensation is needed, along with a public inquiry.

They accused the federal government of assuming the problem has been dealt with.

"This issue is real," said Treaty 3 Grand Chief Arnold Gardner, the top native leader in the region.

"We urge the federal government to address this issue and develop real, inclusive strategies which will ensure the health and safety of (residents)."

The chiefs said a public inquiry should include new scientific research to examine the extent of the effects of mercury contamination.

"The international medical and scientific community can. . .come to conclusions on the lives that have been so tragically impacted," said Fobister.

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Posted 06 September 2004 - 04:47 PM

Research into timber workers’ exposure to PCP
Monday, 6 September 2004, 1:00 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Government

6 September 2004 Media Statement

Research into timber workers’ exposure to PCP

New research into the health of former timber workers exposed to pentachlorophenol (PCP) has been welcomed by Associate Labour Minister Ruth Dyson today.

The government is funding the $520,000 research project to be headed by Professor Neil Pearce of Massey University. His public health team will look into whether PCP exposure contributed to ill health among former timber workers.

The project will focus on whether workers exposed to PCP are dying earlier, getting cancer more often or, suffering more chronic health problems.

“Timber workers have lived with uncertainty for a long time. A number of former timber workers suffer from poor health that they believe was caused by exposure to PCP. This research will help to provide some certainty about the impact PCP exposure has had on their health,” Ruth Dyson said.

Former timber workers were exposed to PCP through its use as an anti-sapstain fungicide in sawmills. PCP was widely used in the New Zealand timber industry between the 1950s and the late 1980s as a method for preventing fungi from staining timber.

Workers involved in the treatment processes, or the subsequent handling of the treated timber, are known to have experienced significant exposure to PCP.

“Funding this work is important. It will help provide clarity around what has been a difficult issue, particularly for those former timber workers with health problems, and their families,” Ruth Dyson said.

The research project will run from April to December 2005 and will involve random samples from former timber workers.

Note: Brief question sheet attached.

When was PCP used?
From the 1950s through to the late 1980s pentachlorophenol (PCP) was widely used in the New Zealand timber industry.

What was it used for?
For most of this period it was used on nearly all freshly sawn timber produced in the country, predominantly radiata pine, and was routinely surface treated to prevent the proliferation of sapstain fungi. Sapstain fungus develops on the wood surface causing a blue-black discoloration to the wood.

How was it used?
The process involved dipping the timber in baths containing an aqueous solution of the sodium salt of PCP (NaPCP). In addition, pressure treatment with a PCP in oil mixture was used as an alternative to creosote as a preservative treatment.

How were workers exposed?
Workers involved in the treatment processes, or the subsequent handling of the treated timber, are known to have experienced significant exposure to PCP. Uptake was primarily through skin contact with PCP solutions or with the treated timber itself. The jobs with the potential for heavy exposure include the handling of the sludge formed in the bottom of dip tanks, and any process involving heating of PCP such as burning treated wood or welding structures, which had been contaminated with PCP.


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Posted 06 September 2004 - 05:00 PM

Monday, 6 September 2004
Research funded into PCP exposure

The Government is funding research into the potential ill health effects of a chemical formerly used in the timber business.

Associate Labour Minister Ruth Dyson has announced $520,000 will go towards research into pentachlorophenol or PCP.

Led by Massey University, it will focus on whether workers exposed to PCP are dying earlier, have higher rates of cancer than average or are suffering from chronic health problems.

PCP was used as a fungicide from the 1950s through to the late 1980s.

Workers involved in the timber treatment process are known to have been exposed to high levels of the chemical.

According to America's Environmental Protection Agency has classified PCP as Group B2, a possible human carcinogen, saying there appears to be an association between exposure to pentachlorophenol and cancer.

It says acute inhalation exposure to pentachlorophenol in humans may result in effects on the cardiovascular system, blood, liver and eyes and that neurological effects include lethargy, abnormally fast breathing, rapid, racing pulse, delirium, and convulsions.


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Posted 06 September 2004 - 09:09 PM

Solvent abuse highlighted

Related Video

Solvent abuse highlighted (2:21)

Sep 6, 2004

The mother of a teenager who died after inhaling butane gas wants solvent sales tightened up. Debbie Hampton's son is one of six young people who have died in Wellington recently from solvent abuse.

In a rare move, the Wellington coroner has asked government agencies what can be done to stop what he calls a scourge on society.

Adrian Hampton would have been celebrating his sixteenth birthday on Monday, but instead of celebrating with him his family was telling the coroner how he died.

In March his mother found him lying dead on the couch having inhaled LPG from a gas heater.

"My son was a victim and I know if I knew more about these drugs I could have taken necessary steps and tried to prevent this happening," said Debbie Hampton.

Five other deaths from accidental overdoses of air freshener, propane and butane lighter gas have shocked the Wellington coroner.

Coroner Gary Evans has called agencies to court to tell him what they're doing

Those concerned about solvent abuse believe education on the issue in schools is insufficient. Pauline Gardiner of WellTrust says that "from our experience in the classroom with teachers there are very few teachers who I've come in contact with who would have even a modest level of knowlege (about solvent abuse)".

Adrian's mother agrees education in schools is important, as well as better communication between police and families.

She also wants the sale of butane gas regulated. At the moment it can be sold to anyone, including children, for half the price of a movie ticket.

The Hamptons hope telling Adrian's story will make young people think twice about solvents.

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Posted 07 September 2004 - 10:42 AM

PCP study long overdue - union
Tuesday, 7 September 2004, 9:49 am
Press Release: Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union

PCP study long overdue - union

The union that has been campaigning for years for recognition of the damage done to timber workers by PCP is welcoming today’s announcement of a research programme, saying it is time that science caught up with reality.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little said that the benchmark for proving that a worker’s ill-health had been caused by PCP-exposure had been set so high that it was impossible to meet.

“ACC has set a very high threshold for recognising claims, and medical science hasn’t been able to meet it,” he said.

“This announcement today means that perhaps science is going to catch up.”

It was research commissioned by the union, which represents timber workers, that drew the Government’s attention to the problems facing workers who had worked with PCP, or pentachlorophenol. This lead to today’s announcement that the Government would fund a $520,000-research project to investigate whether PCP exposure had contributed to ill-health among timber workers.

Mr Little said that PCP had continued to be used in New Zealand long after it was banned in other countries, and that workers had had little protection from the substance.

“When you hear about these people’s work history and the extent of the exposure, it’s difficult not to conclude that their health problems were caused by PCP,” he said.

The EPMU will be involved in monitoring the research.

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Posted 07 September 2004 - 10:53 AM

Solvent abuse concerns coroner
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Sep 6, 2004

The coroner in Wellington will ask the government and other agencies to discuss what is being done to address the issue of solvent abuse among young people.

Garry Evans is holding inquests into the deaths of six people from the Wellington region, aged between 15 and 27.

Five of them died in the past nine months.

As part of the inquest Evans has asked for submissions from a variety of organisations.

opinion: if the coroner has concerns about the intentional solvent snifers, then he should ask what effects are had by workers using solvents as part of their work and how does solvents affect them, more importantly, the issue of supply for profit by retailers of the solvents needs to be addresses as we know the ACC will deny solvent injury by spending your ACC levies on legal advisors and dodgy medical advisors to find any means possible to deny help. in my opinion, this acc behaviour is deemed "Intentional Neglect"

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