Providing advice and information on hazardous substances

Effective management of hazardous substances throughout their lifecycle is necessary to avoid adverse health effects from either direct exposure or environmental contamination. Community and Public Health’s role relates to situations where there exists a need to protect public health, not withstanding other agencies’ responsibilities.

Contact your local Community and Public Health office for information and advice on hazardous substances including:

  • Asbestos;
  • Lead and lead poisoning; and
  • Vertebrate toxic agents (VTAs).

Under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, other agencies also have substantial hazardous substances roles and responsibilities including:

  • WorkSafe NZ is responsible for ensuring that the provisions of the Act are enforced in any workplace. They are a division of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
  • Councils are responsible for ensuring that the provisions of the Act are enforced in or on any premises situated in their district, other than those premises specified in section 97 HSNO Act as being the responsibility of another agency.

Get additional information about hazardous substances and the HSNO legislation (NZ Environmental Protection Authority or EPA)

Find out more about issuing permissions for Vertebrate toxic agents, including the application form (Ministry of Health).

Download or order hazardous substances resources from the Community Health Information Centre.

A Maori man wearing a mask planting vegetables in a raised garden bed.How to stay safe with home and gardening products

Many of the everyday products you use at home contain chemicals that fall into the category of ‘hazardous substances’ – including toothpaste, dishwashing powder, and paint.

Weed-killers, pest sprays, fertilizers and many other gardening products are also considered ‘hazardous substances’.

Labels on these products explain the physical, health and environmental risks that you need to be aware of so that you can use, store and dispose of them safely.

Call the Poisons Centre for more advice on 0800 764 766 (0800 POISON).

Call 111 immediately if a person is not breathing or is unconscious.

Looking at the hazardous effects of radiation

The National Centre for Radiation Science is the lead public health agency for radiation issues. Community and Public Health also carries out some activities, including:

  • responding to inquiries and complaints;
  • reviewing resource consent applications relating to ionising and non-ionising radiation; and
  • responding to radiation emergencies if necessary.

Ionising radiation is radiation which has sufficient energy to knock electrons out of (ionise) atoms. X-rays and gamma rays are types of ionising radiation, as are the particulate radiations of alpha and beta particles that are found in some types of nuclear decay. Ionising radiation is what the general public regards as ‘radioactive’.

Non-ionising radiation includes electromagnetic fields in the form of extremely low frequency fields, visible light (including lasers), microwave (including microwave ovens and cell-phone transmissions), radiofrequency fields, ultra violet and infrared.

Get further advice and information on radiation from one of the following links:



Contact your local office for further information:

Ph: +64 3 364 1777

Ph: +64 3 687 2600

Ph: +64 3 768 1160

For additional information, contact:

Environmental Protection Authority
Ph: 0800 376 234

WorkSafe NZ
0800 030 040

Product Recalls: safe in the knowledge.

Asbestos advice for Christchurch householders

WorkSafe NZ has been investigating the testing and management of asbestos during repair work carried out in homes in Christchurch following the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

Page last updated: 06/11/2023

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