Unions are calling for a ban on methyl bromide, a substance used to fumigate logs before export, after research by University of Canterbury toxicologist Ian Shaw has shown that the chemical could be linked to high instances of motor neuron disease among Nelson port workers. Nelson’s port population has suffered a rate of motor neuron disease 25 times the international average.
The EU has already banned methyl bromide from March this year, for environmental as well as health reasons. On an atom-per-atom basic, methyl bromide is sixty times more destructive to the ozone layer than CFCs.
“There is no evidence to justify any human exposure level to methyl bromide,” stated Council of Trade Unions President Helen Kelly in a press release. “This neurological poison could have caused the fatal motor neurone disease in six Port Nelson workers, and its ozone depleting status means it is hazardous to us all.”
The Maritime Union has attacked comments by the group Stakeholders in Methyl Bromide Reduction (STIMBR) which has been downplaying concerns. STIMBR is made up of businesses that have a direct financial interest in the use of methyl bromide, and until recently had Government representation and financial contributions. Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood issued a press release saying he is very concerned that the Government has until recently been officially represented on what was clearly a partisan organization that appeared motivated by the interests of private businesses, and which had no representation of maritime workers.
STIMBR is not an industry group, it’s an employers group, managers who sit in offices a safe distance from methyl bromide fumigation. It’s a public relations cookup to portray themselves as reducing methyl bromide when they are the beneficiaries of its use. What Government agencies were doing involved with STIMBR is a major concern and we will be approaching the Government on this matter.