Home' The Wellingtonian : January 24th 2013 Contents JANUARY 24, 2013
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3 Streetwise 10-11 Opinion 12 Wellingtonian interview
14 Dining 18-19 Arts 22-24 Sport
Juliet Moore 12
Jazz man's plea
to save big
band music 18
Gas blamed for illness
Wharfies 'told nothing'
By JIM CHIPP
Industrial disease: Ian McGregor
has been diagnosed with motor
neurone disease. Photo: JIM CHIPP
More stories have surfaced of ill-
ness and death among people
exposed to a fumigation pesticide
on the Wellington waterfront.
Scientific tests have not con-
clusively linked the pesticide to
neurological diseases, but workers
and their families are concerned
about the effects of exposure to
Last month The Wellingtonian
reported that methyl bromide was
being used at Wellington s port to
fumigate export logs, with the
used gas released to the atmos-
Rick Graham of Lower Hutt
died of motor neurone disease in
He had spent some years
inspecting used cars on the wharf
after they had been fumigated
with methyl bromide, also known
Ngaio resident Ian McGregor
worked on the waterfront from the
early 1970s as a refrigeration
He has been crippled by motor
neurone disease and is in fulltime
I can t write; I can t hold a pen,
or a knife and fork, he said,
speaking slowly and haltingly.
He said he believed his con-
dition was caused by exposure to
methyl bromide on the waterfront,
where export logs were fumigated
No-one working on the wharf
was aware of the risks, he said.
They told us bugger all --
Another man, who we agreed
not to name, said that last year he
suffered a grand mal epileptic
seizure, which he attributed to
lingering methyl bromide after
exposure to imported used cars.
The man, in his mid-40s, works
in the Wellington automotive
industry and said he feared for his
job if he was identified.
When I go near a car that has
been fumigated, I get massive
headaches and feel nauseous, he
A friend who works in the same
business for another company suf-
fers even worse symptoms.
He can t even hop into those
cars to do his part of the job.
Somebody else has to do it.
After cars were fumigated with
methyl bromide they were mar-
ked, he said. By law they have to
put a sticker on them. If it s safe,
why do they have to do that?
Otago University pesticide toxi-
cology specialist Leo Schep said
methyl bromide was a gas that
dissipated as soon as it was
Once you lift the tarpaulins it
just goes straight up, he said. It
will dissipate. Once it comes out of
the wharf it s gone.
Agricultural use of methyl bro-
mide has been phased out since its
damaging effect on the ozone
layer was identified.
Users in New Zealand must
install a full recapture system for
used gas by 2021.
Asked whether it was possible
people could have been affected by
cars that had been fumigated, Mr
Schep said the gas was unlikely to
be present after vehicles had been
removed from the wharf.
From the Act point of view,
people in cars are not going to be
exposed to methyl bromide, but
from the cause-and-effect point of
view, I would reserve judgement.
Low-level exposure to methyl
bromide has been suspected of
causing motor neurone disease.
High-level exposure has caused
nausea, abdominal pain, heada-
ches, confusion, convulsions, limb
spasms, seizures and impaired
vision. It can be fatal.
Photo winner can take a seat after narrow win
Former Island Bay
resident Michael Frank
has won our summer photo
contest with this picture of
computer chairs on Owhiro
Bay Beach. His Lounge
with a View picture earned
him a $250 Fujifilm
Instant Photo fun pack,
including a Fuji Instax
Mini instant camera.
It was a hotly contested
race, and Mr Frank s photo
won by the slimmest of
margins -- just one vote
from Alan Raga s
The vote was so close
that we have decided to
give Mr Raga a consolation
prize of a double pass to
Third was Lizanne
Bowers picture of her
husband and daughter in
garnered a record number
of entries and hits on our
website. We ll be repeating
the exercise shortly. Keep
an eye out.
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