Former sawmill work­ers share un­ex­plained health is­sues

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - FRANCES FER­GU­SON

A spe­cial sup­port group to sup­port the health needs of sawmill work­ers con­tin­ues to see a growth in health is­sues in the re­gion.

Sawmill Work­ers Against Poi­sons (SWAP) held a two day meet­ing re­cently at the Tim­ber Mu­seum in Pu­taruru for former millers to dis­cuss their health con­cerns and as­sess­ments.

The ser­vice was setup to keep a track of former work­ers who were ex­posed to pen­tachlorophe­nol or PCP used to treat tim­ber in NZ.

Con­sul­tant Joe Harawira­said their work was im­por­tant in keep­ing fam­i­lies in­formed.

‘‘It’s left a toxic legacy. It’s huge be­cause it’s gen­er­a­tional.

‘‘At the end of the day there is a re­spon­si­bil­ity for the govern­ment to ad­dress be­cause the ma­jor­ity of the mills in those days were state owned.’’

He has seen the ef­fects that the chem­i­cal has had on four gen­er­a­tions.

Al­though there has been no of­fi­cial proof to con­firm the range of health is­sues were re­lated to be­ing ex­posed to the toxic chem­i­cal.

That has been part of the strug­gle Harawira has had – get­ting of­fi­cials to recog­nise the im­pact.

‘‘Toko­roa was the tim­ber cap­i­tal. Those chem­i­cals are still in the en­vi­ron­ment

‘‘When you look at it in its en­tirety, this thing is not just about the work­ers any­more. It’s ev­ery­one.’’

Cam­paigner Erica Herangi, said there were 900 mills around the coun­try that were us­ing the chem­i­cal dur­ing the 60s.

‘‘No one was re­ally ex­empt, it’s just to what level. How close were you living to the sawmill? Was your dad there, or your grand­fa­ther? ‘‘That’s how it can be mea­sured.’’ Toko­roa lo­cal Ma­nia Paiti has suf­fered from sore lungs for many years.

Doc­tors can’t find any­thing wrong but he traces it back to his time work­ing in a mill.

He came over with his brother from Samoa to work at the mill in 1967.

He said no one wore pro­tec­tive gear or breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus back then and they worked in shorts and sin­glets.

‘‘Some­times the fumes would knock you out. We were never told any­thing.’’

Doc­tors told Paiti not to worry when he started hav­ing breath­ing prob­lems. In­stead they blamed it on a bad lifestyle, he said.

For ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion call 0800 288 588.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.