12 Mar 2013

Dust from logging trucks may be harming health

12:55 pm on 12 March 2013

Northland's senior medical officer of health considers dust being stirred up by logging trucks in the region may be a serious health hazard.

Families living on metal roads north of Whangarei have asked for help to deal with a dust problem they say is causing coughs and asthma.

They say their symptoms have developed with the rush to harvest forest in the mid-north, with up to 60 trucks a day passing by their homes on roads never built for that purpose.

A Northland road before the logging truck passed.

A Northland road before the logging truck passed. Photo: SUPPLIED

The rough metal roads north of Pipiwai are a highway for trucks on their way to the big pine forests of the mid-north.

About 19 families live on those roads, including Poncho Peihopa who said he his coughing up plegm and he has sent his children to live in town because they were wheezing.

The same road after a truck had gone by.

The same road after a truck had gone by. Photo: SUPPLIED

George Niha, who lives further up Pipwai Road, said his wife has been on antihistamines for months, and she's fed up with not being able to keep the children's clothes clean.

The region's senior medical officer of health, Jonathan Jarman, said the said the clouds of dust are causing allergies and coughing but he is more worried about the dust that can't be seen.

He said very fine particles known as PM10 can lodge deep in the lungs, causing serious respiratory disease and even heart attacks.

Dr Jarman said the forestry company and the Whangarei Council have shown some regard for local people by agreeing to grade, then treat the road with a dust-suppressant product.

But he says the part of Pipiwai Road where most of the families live lies in the Far North District and that council hasn't yet agreed to do anything.

Far North mayor Wayne Brown says his council wants to use oil sprays, as it did years ago.

But he says the Northland Regional Council and Northland Health say the sprays contain carcinogens.

Mr Brown says no one is going to eat the road, and the authorities are not looking at the health benefits of oil sprays which prevent dust from getting into peoples lungs.