Air pollution from industry, domestic and mobile sources can give rise to serious health problems, particularly in urban areas where the majority of the New Zealand population (over 80%) reside and work. Air pollution can also occur from natural causes, such as geothermal areas. Risks to public health exist both outdoors and indoors (including non-occupation environments) where exposure to short-term high, or long-term low, concentrations of air pollution can give rise to acute and chronic conditions and, in extreme cases, death. Whilst, Waikato District Health Board is not the primary agency in aspects of air quality, some ventilation systems and incidences related to domestic indoor air are investigated. Our primary role is to provide information and advice to other agencies and the public on the effects of adverse air quality.
Pre-1984, asbestos was used in textured ceilings. Information regarding the health risks and removal of asbestos is available from the DHB Education Resource Centre or visit here. The Ministry of Health offers homeowners one free of charge textured ceiling sample test for asbestos. You should contact the Health Protection Unit ((07) 838 2569) before you take a sample.
New Zealand has remained free from many significant human, animal and plant diseases and their vectors. Effective quarantine and biosecurity procedures are needed to prevent the entry and establishment of new diseases or disease vectors. As part of this work, the Health Protection Unit undertakes exotic mosquito surveillance to ensure that diseases carried by some exotic mosquitos, such as Ross River virus and Dengue fever, are not allowed to establish in New Zealand. The main priority sites in our region are Hamilton International Airport and the coastal areas.
Further information about mosquitoes is available from the DHB Education Resource Centre.
The Health Protection Unit is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 and other regulations including supervising exhumations, disinterment license applications, repatriation and investigating incidents and complaints. The unit also deals with matters concerning medical referees and new cemeteries and crematoriums. Advice and assistance will be given to applicants to export cadavers to ensure public health concerns are addressed.
Human activities in parts of New Zealand have resulted in the contamination of land with substances hazardous to human health. Human exposure may occur through contact with contaminated soil, dust, food and water. This exposure may be hazardous to health and therefore needs to be quantified and minimised. The Health Protection Unit is involvement in resource management processes including investigation, provision of advice and information to public and involved agencies.
Further information on lead poisoning can be found here:
Safe drinking water is essential to protect public health from diseases or other harmful contaminants in New Zealand. Water intended for human consumption or for activities such as food preparation should be of such quality that good health is not compromised or threatened. The Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 2000 sets out the quality of water that water suppliers are expected to deliver for public consumption. The Health Protection Unit has an auditing function to ensure that appropriate water quality is maintained. The Health Protection Unit is training staff as drinking water assessors and working towards accreditation with IANZ. Additional information is available from the DHB Education Resource Centre or from the Ministry of Health.
Early Childhood Centres (ECC’s) play an important role in the education, health and life of pre-school children and provide excellent avenues for health promotion. Early childhood centres may present a large number of potential risks to children’s health and safety, particularly disease transmission. (See Communicable Disease Control for more information). These risks also have implications for the health and well-being of the wider community, particularly friends, teachers, parents, caregivers and other family members of the children attending the centres. The secretary of education relies on advice from designated officers from the Health Protection Unit on the adequacy and suitability of the health and safety provisions for children attending early childhood centres, particularly in the granting of licenses by the Ministry of Health. The Health Protection Unit is therefore concerned with the identification, assessment and management of health and safety risks in the centres. An information sheet is available from the Health Protection Unit ((07) 838 2569).
Noise is unwanted or undesirable sound and can materially affect an individual or a community’s health, well-being and enjoyment of their surroundings. Whilst the enforcement of noise restrictions is primarily the responsibility of local authorities and Occupational Safety & Health, the Health Protection Unit is involved in liaison with local authorities, submissions on plans and resource consent applications and the provision of technical assistance and noise assessment.
Proper management of hazardous substances throughout our life cycle is necessary to avoid adverse health effects either from direct or indirect exposure to hazardous substances or from environmental contamination. Health protection services, in association with a number of other agencies are responsible for protecting public health except where the hazard is in an occupational health setting. The purpose of this programme is to avoid or reduce risks to public health arising from the importation, manufacture, storage, packaging, labelling, handling, transport and sale of toxic, corrosive and infectious substances. It also controls the use of scheduled fumigants and controlled pesticides. The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 & regulations provide comprehensive regulatory coverage for all aspects of hazardous substances.
A pamphlet on poisons around the home is available from the DHB Education Resource Centre .
Exposure to radiation can pose a significant threat to public health. The National Radiation Laboratory deals with licensing and all major enquiries. The Health Protection Unit, however, can advise on the health effects of ionising/non-ionising.
The Health Protection Unit is involved in public health emergencies, including civil defence emergencies. Examples include communicable disease outbreaks and chemical incidents, as well as flooding or earthquakes. Pre-disaster public health planning and interagency liaison can improve preparedness for the response and recovery phases, and reduce the overall impacts on the public health after a disaster.
The Health Protection Unit aims to protect public health by preventing the risk of disease associated with the public use of recreational waters and by minimising the risk of drowning and unintentional injury associated with the use of recreational waters. A pamphlet on safe recreational water use is available from the DHB Education Resource Centre.
Land, air and water are the basic elements of the environment necessary to support human life. These elements must be sustainably managed in a way or at a rate which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being and for their health and safety. The Health Protection Unit makes submissions on relevant plans and policies, and where appropriate resource consent applications to ensure that public health aspects are considered and decisions do not impact negatively on public health.
Sewage contains large numbers of potential pathogens and the unsatisfactory management of sewage collection, treatment and disposal can pose a significant threat to public health. The Health Protection Unit has involvement in regional and local council planning and resource consent processes as well as surveillance, information gathering and response to incidents and complaints.
Shellfish concentrate toxins and pathogens from the environment. Shellfish collected from contaminated water or water in which toxic algae are present may create a significant threat to the health of shellfish consumers. For more information please see the Toxic Shellfish Poisoning page on this site.
Liquid and solid wastes may contain hazardous materials and can provide a medium to support pathogens and disease vectors. Unsatisfactorily operated liquid and solid waste collection, treatment and disposal systems can pose a threat to public health. The Health Protection Unit has involvement with regional and local council planning and resource consent processes, surveillance and monitoring of significant public risks in waste management and general information gathering.