Workers offered tests for toxic gas

Workers offered tests for toxic gas
Published: 14 February 2005

Holcim operating out of Port Nelson, New Zealand is offering its workers blood testing for methyl bromide gas following publicity about possible links with motor neurone disease.  This follows similar moves by a Nelson stevedoring firm late last year.  Holcim Cement general manager Jeremy Smith said blood testing had always been available but management was now reminding workers about it as a safety precaution. 

The company had requested a meeting with Port Nelson officials and other stakeholder groups involved in timber fumigation to ensure adequate safety procedures were in place to prevent workers suffering adverse health effects from the toxic greenhouse gas.  Mr Smith said he was not aware of any Holcim Cement workers becoming ill as a result of the port’s fumigation activities. 

But Eddie Ewers , who formally worked at the site for Milburn Cement before it became Holcim Cement, died in 2003 after contracting motor neurone disease.  The Nelson Public Health Service is investigating a suspicious cluster of motor neurone deaths, all of which involved former port workers.  The men’s wives believe the deaths might be linked to methyl bromide exposure. There is no medical evidence to support the claims.