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POISONED LIVES The Human Tragedy

#1 Guest_Gone Walkabout_*

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  Posted 06 November 2003 - 08:20 PM


The Dominion 22 May 2001 by Sarah Prestwood

WHEN Geoff Francis, 53, killed himself by stepping in front of an oncoming
Wellington train last year, he left a note apologising to the driver for
the distress he was about to cause him.

Mr Francis was suffering from solvent neurotoxicity, a form of chemical poisoning, and could no longer cope with his depression. Six months later, his widow Beverly is still battling the after-effects of her husband's premature death and his crippling

"People are still being poisoned. I hear about people using the solvents
who have anger problems and depression. We need to acknowledge that there is a
problem, and the cost to society," she says.

Medical experts are calling it the new asbestos.

Chronic solvent neurotoxicity, caused by organic solvents, injures the brain.

Printers, painters, boat-builders, shoemakers, and spray painters have been battling
the condition, which slowly poisons their nervous system, for decades.

Long-term exposure to organic solvents can cause a multitude of problems,
including daily headaches, severe depression, memory loss, and, according
to some experts, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

About 100,000 New Zealand workers are regularly exposed to organic solvents but it is not known how many of them are harmed by the chemicals. It is also difficult to work out numbers when many have no idea they are suffering from it.

The illness damages the nerve endings to the brain as solvents are absorbed through the skin or hair. Medical experts say recovery is almost impossible.

Mr Francis had worked as an offset printer for 30 years when he was diagnosed with
solvent neurotoxicity in 1998.

Since her husband's illness, Mrs Francis, 47, has investigated solvent
poisonings. She compares the illness to the epidemic caused through
poisoning by asbestos, which was not completely banned in New Zealand till

"It is the same thing with solvents. They have known for almost 70 years
but they have not done anything. They are still being used by most companies.
Workers are still being poisoned."

In the years leading up to Mr Francis's death, Mrs Francis watched
helplessly as her husband changed dramatically.

"I don't like talking about this, but it got so bad that he was having
violent temper tantrums _ screaming on the floor like a child. I even had
to go out and buy a new lawnmower because one day he decided to trash ours in
a rage."

In the weeks leading up to his death, Mrs Francis says she was barely
surviving and made herself physically ill.

"I just couldn't cope anymore as I was only surviving day by day. I had
let everything slip. We hadn't eaten a decent meal in weeks, I was surviving
on four to five hours' sleep every night and I couldn't even clean the

Diagnosing Mr Francis's illness took several years. The couple's doctor
investigated his background and helped diagnose the cause of his illness.

Mrs Francis remains critical of many health professionals who fail to look
at all the surrounding factors when they are faced with a patient
suffering from depression.

"These guys are treated like head cases but they are not. Many doctors
just don't know what to do with solvent neurotoxicity."

Mr Francis's story is not unique. Since his death, Mrs Francis has been
inundated with calls from people with similar stories. Yet research and
studies on the illness remain limited.

A 1998 Occupational Safety and Health report shows one-third of 123 boat builders who responded to a survey said they were suffering ongoing health problems from their work. More than 98 per cent were also regularly exposed to solvents.

Though compensation claims have varied for different sufferers, ACC does
not have a breakdown of the number of solvent neurotoxicity claims or cost.

From 1992 to 1998, OSH recorded 362 reported cases of chronic
solvent-induced neurotoxicity.
A New Zealand expert on solvent neurotoxicity, Christchurch professor Bill Glass, says this is the new asbestos epidemic.

"We ignore solvents at our own peril."

Professor Glass, who also works as an adviser to OSH, says OSH is aware of
the problem and is increasing its safety campaign. Most solvent
neurotoxicity sufferers say the main problem they face is finding a doctor
who can successfully diagnose the condition.

Professor Glass agrees: "It is still true that doctors do not sufficiently
pay attention to patients' work history."

He says it is impossible to know what proportion of workers handling
solvents are poisoned by the chemical, but new cases continue to surface.

The main chemicals, tolunene, benzene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and
n-hexane, are still regularly used, mostly as cleaning agents.

While use of protective clothing has increased, Professor Glass says poor
ventilation in the workplace remains a key issue, which OSH plans to

Andrew, now in his sixties, worked as a printer for more than 40
years before he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago.
A former workmate of Mr Francis, he had not seen his friend for 10 years
when he bumped into him at a supermarket last year and the pair swapped
notes about their illnesses.

Andrew began working as a printer in England during the 1950s and was exposed to solvents so strong that the average working life was only 10 years.

"We didn't know what was in them as there were no hazard warnings or
protective clothing. These toxic fumes were so strong they were affecting
guys' sex drives, their sleep patterns - as soon as you walked up the
garden path your wife could smell you."

After developing nerve tingling, Andrew consulted his doctor who
eventually diagnosed multiple sclerosis. He had previously been told his condition
was not related to his work as a printer and has never sought ACC

David, another printer, was diagnosed with solvent neurotoxicity five
years ago, after OSH tests picked up his condition.

SINCE 1995, he has been living on ACC payments and trying to get a handle
on his brain injury. He says his illness, described as a progressive one, is
difficult to put into words. He is aware that the poisoning is slowly
creeping up on him.

"More than anything your personality and lifestyle change. I cannot go to
places like restaurants or shopping centres because of any noises or
smells as it affects the brain.

"So in the end you just stop going out to places as you can't handle it."

He suffers ongoing depression and has battled suicidal feelings over the
past few years.

"You wonder what is left in your life if you are just going to be locked
up in your house for the rest of your life.

"Your short-term memory is affected, I have mood swings and you basically
become quite an aggressive and nasty person."

His wife of 32 years, Deidre, says it is difficult to sustain their marriage
when her husband feels he has become a lesser person. He has contemplated
suicide three times and can get very agitated when systems or plans alter.

A New Zealand support group for aldehyde and solvent affected sufferers
deals with more than 100 solvent neurotoxicity sufferers.

Organiser Phillippa Martin says radiographers and nurses who have been poisoned bythe chemical glutaraldehyde have endured the toughest fight for compensation
from ACC.

The Labour Government promised a select committee inquiry into
the use of glutaraldehyde in the health service, but Ms Martin says no
date has been set.

ACC's John Monigatti says radiographers have experienced problems when
seeking compensation because additional symptoms from chemical poisoning,
such as multiple chemical sensitivity, are not recognised by ACC.

Dr Monigatti says solvent-induced neurotoxicity sufferers go through a three
to four-hour neuropsychological assessment, testing their short and long-term
memory and attention span, before they receive compensation.

Meanwhile, Andrew is philosophical about his poisoned career.

"All I know is those solvents are bloody dangerous."


This is still happenning today - and yet well known household name companies still DO NOT WILLINGLY provide the safety information for products sold for profit to both the industries and the public. :angry: :angry:

#2 Guest_IDB_*

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 08:37 PM

This is sad.

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#3 User is offline   fairgo 

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Posted 24 February 2005 - 09:11 AM

ACC accepts Ivon-Watkins Dow sickness claims
24 February 2005

Two Taranaki people who fear they may have been injured by workplace exposure to dioxin have had their claims accepted by ACC.

ACC said in a statement yesterday that the two people, along with four others, underwent medical examinations by an ACC occupational medicine specialist last year.

All six had alleged they had been taken ill as a result of workplace exposure stemming from their local Ivon Watkins-Dow chemical plant.

In September the Health Ministry said that tests had shown some long-term residents in the New Plymouth suburb of Paritutu had a higher than normal level of dioxin in their blood.

An interim report on the blood dioxin study said the higher levels were most likely to be from breathing emissions originating from a former Ivon Watkins-Dow plant in Paritutu.

Ivon Watkins-Dow - now Dow AgroSciences - made the pesticide 2,4,5-T from 1960 until the 1980s at the plant.

For many years residents in the suburb have said emissions from the plant caused birth defects, cancer and other diseases.

AdvertisementAdvertisementThe claims by the six former workers were assessed by ACC's PCP/Dioxin Panel which has been considering work exposure injury claims for chemicals containing dioxin such as PCP since 1997.

The panel concluded there was insufficient medical evidence of causal links in the four cases declined.

Five more people have now completed questionnaires and ACC is arranging for them to undergo medical examinations by an ACC occupational medicine specialist.

The results of those examinations will be considered by the panel and recommendations made on whether or not to accept any further claims received.

Roy Drake, one of the unsuccessful claimants, said on TV One news last night that he was pleased that a government department had finally recognised dioxin exposure.

ACC said that several criteria have to be met for claims to be accepted.

These include that personal injury must have been suffered as a result of exposure, and the exposure must have occurred in the workplace.

In October a Massey University study showed that workers exposed to dioxin during the manufacture of phenoxy herbicides at the Ivon Watkins-Dow (IWD) plant were more likely to die from cancer.

In the study, 1025 production workers at the IWD plant and 703 sprayers were followed up over a 30-year period.

When compared with the general population, there was no increase of cancer among the sprayers, yet there were higher mortality rates from cancer among the production workers, particularly those in jobs with likely dioxin exposure, Professor Neil Pearce, from the university's centre for public health research, said in a statement.

The study was conducted as part of a World Health Organisation (WHO) organised international study, and presented at an International Symposium on Occupational Health in Melbourne.

Prof Pearce said the findings of Massey's study were consistent with the WHO study, which involved 22,000 workers in 36 plants in 123 countries.

"The WHO study found that production workers exposed to dioxin had a 29 per cent increased risk of cancer. In New Plymouth we found a 24 per cent increased risk, which is very similar, particularly when we take into account the small numbers involved," he said.

#4 User is offline   gaffa09 

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 05:33 PM

has this story got a bearing on the TV3 news tonight ,


What happened to the train driver

well i am bringing it forward anyway

#5 User is offline   The River 

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 02:16 PM

The interesting thing about this is that those who are exposed but are not in employment do not receive cover. I am interested to know if any cover would be given for lets say water contaminants in your local supply or air born contaminants from factories close to your dwelling. These issues are both very difficult to prove and easily deniable by the perpetrators. It is wise to assume that those who would pollute using such harmful toxins would stop at nothing to hide this fact, keep their ill-gotten gains and remain in power.

#6 User is offline   hukildaspida 

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 10:42 AM


#7 User is offline   Rosey 

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 10:39 PM

View Posthukildaspida, on Feb 5 2009, 12:42 PM, said:

Good info. Thanks.

#8 User is offline   Maraqita 

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 11:37 PM

Thanks for sharing.

#9 User is offline   Moeroa 

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 12:36 AM

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216 x 138 mm
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#10 User is offline   hukildaspida 

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 02:29 PM

Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)


The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is a United Nations (UN)-developed system for chemical classification and hazard communication through harmonized provisions for standardized labels and safety data sheets (SDS). It is developed from various existing systems in the US, EU, Canada, and from the UN’s own research and study of universal standards.

The GHS was endorsed by the UN World Summit for Sustainable Development in 2002. At the 14th APEC Ministerial Meeting in Oct 2002, APEC Trade Ministers also set its stamp of approval on the GHS for APEC-wide implementation by 2006. This target date was rescheduled to 2008 at the APEC Chemical Dialogue meeting in 2006.

The status of GHS implementation in 67 countries are listed here.

GHS in a Nut Shell
The GHS is documented in the UN publication - GHS Document (commonly known as the “Purple Book”). The full text of the system is available here.

The GHS is essentially a hazard communication system for identifying and conveying chemical hazards, and for providing information related to chemical hazards and their control and prevention.

The GHS requires chemicals to be classified based on their inherent properties or hazards and in accordance with certain classification criteria. The classified chemicals are assigned to a fixed set of GHS pictogram(s), signal word, hazard and precautionary statements.

The GHS also requires SDS to be prepared for all classified hazardous chemicals in accordance with a standardized 16 sections format.

Information provided on the labels and SDS enables users of hazardous chemicals to identify the hazards and take the necessary preventive or protective measures for their health and safety.

The purpose of the GHS is to enhance the protection of humans and environment against hazardous chemicals as well as to facilitate international trade by ensuring that all chemicals moving into and out of a country are classified, packaged and labeled in accordance with a globally harmonized system.

Hazard communication through labeling, SDS and training is an integral part of chemical management. The GHS provides the underlying infrastructure for the establishment of a chemical safety programme, which forms part of the safety and health management system.

A harmonised hazard communication system helps chemical companies to reduce the cost and time required to comply with multiple regulations. Hence, it is logical and cost-effective for chemical manufacturers, suppliers and users to adopt this international system of hazard communication.

Please click on the following to view:

- GHS Task Force

- GHS Resources
- GHS Training
- GHS Useful Links

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