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New Otago study focuses on health aspects of toxic site clean-up

  • Written by Dr Kirsten Lovelock & Dr David McBride
  • Published in Public Health

University of Otago researchers have received a Health Research Council of New Zealand and Ministry of Health partnership research grant to conduct an epidemiological study of the former Fruitgrowers Chemical Company site in Mapua


The project will be conducted over a two-year period and will be the first multidisciplinary exploration of health outcomes associated with soil remediation at a chemically contaminated site in New Zealand.

The Mapua site was classified as a highly contaminated site and soil remediation began in 2004 and was completed in 2008. There have been local health concerns raised about chemical exposure during the remediation work.

Mapua Epidemiological Study Principal Investigator Dr David McBride of Otago’s Department of Preventive and Social Medicine will lead a multidisciplinary team comprising departmental colleagues Drs Kirsten Lovelock, Sarah Lovell and Mr Andrew Gray, the University of Auckland’s Drs Kim Dirks and David Welch and Dr Daniel Shepherd of AUT University.

The study will document the health concerns, perceptions of exposures, comparative exposures and health effects for people living on or close to the remediation site in Mapua.

The researchers will also provide an analysis of blood serum samples to determine exposures of Mapua community members to dioxins, non-dioxin-like PCBs and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). They will conduct a health outcomes survey and collect serum samples from participants in Mapua and a control group in Nelson.

Dr McBride says health effects induced by exposure to chemicals are multidimensional and for that reason the team is multidisciplinary, comprising a physician, a social anthropologist and health geographer, two epidemiologists, a psychologist and a biostatistician.

“It is important not just to document the biological effects, but also the environmental distress and risk and the psycho-social effects for those living near or on contaminated sites and those living through soil remediation. 

“We are looking forward to working with the community of Mapua and a control group in Nelson and generating some meaningful results that will address any concerns community members have about health conditions related to exposure during the remediation process,” says Dr McBride.

The research team will hold a public meeting at the Mapua Community Hall on Thursday 29 September to explain what the study will involve and to answer questions.

For more information, please contact:

Dr Kirsten Lovelock
Project Manager, Mapua Epidemiological Study
Telephone (03) 479 8298

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr David McBride
Principal Investigator
Mapua Epidemiological Study

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Source: the Health Research Council of New Zealand

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