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Poisoned Timber Worker's Families Need Support

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Catherine Delahunty
Catherine Delahunty

Proposals to support the health needs of poisoned timber treatment workers are good but their families also need support, Green MP Catherine Delahunty said today.

The Green Party applauds the options canvassed in a recently released Allen and Clarke consultation document for mental health support, counselling and free specialist care for former timber workers.

However Ms Delahunty, the Green Party's toxics spokesperson, said the document misses some other key health needs. "Allen and Clarke acknowledge that spinal bifida can be an inter-generational effect of dioxin exposure but don't consider the timber workers families to be at high risk from other illnesses," said Ms Delahunty.

"This is inconsistent with the approach being taken to Vietnam veterans and their families who were exposed to Agent Orange. Vietnam veteran's families - many of whom have a range of associated illnesses - are included in the veteran's health support package.

"Anecdotal information about the effects on the families of timber workers and especially the diverse negative effects on children's health needs to be thoroughly investigated." Proposals that health support will only be available to workers who used the preservative pentachlorophenol (PCP) for five years or more will exclude some of the affected group.

"It isn't the length of time of exposure which dictates the levels of dioxin related illness," said Ms Delahunty.

"Some timber workers were exposed to extremely high levels of PCP contaminated with dioxin, higher in some cases than some of the affected veterans." Ms Delahunty said there is also an issue around the levels of dioxin in individuals. Sometimes people with lower levels of dioxin in their blood serum are sicker than others with higher readings.

Health services need to be available to the wider group and the criteria in the report need to be re-evaluated. "We want a consistent national approach to the health care of all victims of chemical exposure which should include families and communities," said Ms Delahunty.

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