Providing advice and information on hazardous substances

The effective management of hazardous substances throughout their lifecycle is necessary to avoid adverse health effects from either direct exposure or environmental contamination. Te Mana Ora | Community and Public Health has a role in situations where there a potential risk to public health.

Contact your local Te Mana Ora | 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 1996, 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.

Warning for users of traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) remedies

Health NZ media release: 7th March 2024

Images of Ayurvedic remedies that were tested and found to contain toxic levels of lead. Source: Medsafe.Medsafe, the National Poisons Centre, and Health New Zealand – Te Whatu Ora are urging members of the Indian community to take extreme care before taking traditional Ayurvedic remedies, as some recent users have become extremely ill after consuming them.

Eight adults of Indian origin across Auckland and the Bay of Plenty have become very unwell after taking some Ayurvedic remedies to treat infertility, impotence and pain over the last few months. This is due to them having high lead content and resulting in lead poisoning, which has very unpleasant side effects to the nervous and digestive systems including:

  • memory impairment;
  • sleep disturbance;
  • headaches;
  • tingling and numbness in finger and hands;
  • nausea;
  • diarrhoea;
  • constipation; and
  • stomach pains.

Some patients have also been admitted to hospital many times, with two of the patients found to have such high levels of lead in their blood that they were at risk of critical illness and death. Thankfully the patients have recovered.

Anyone using Ayurvedic products needs to be very careful – and follow this public health advice:

  • Some Ayurvedic products can contain unknown or unverified ingredients, so extreme care is advised if considering taking these products.
  • If you, or someone you know becomes unwell after taking Ayurvedic remedies, please contact your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional. Help is also available by calling Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116.
  • The National Poisons Centre is available 24/7 to provide advice for any cases of known or suspected lead toxicity, by calling 0800 764 766.
  • If it’s an emergency, please visit your hospital Emergency Department or call 111 , without delay.

Find out more about this health warning for traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) remedies.

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. Te Mana Ora | 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.

Water blasting contaminates homes with asbestos and lead

Environment Canterbury media release: 6th March 2024

If you are planning work on your home this autumn, consider a professional assessment for the presence of asbestos or lead.

There have been two recent cases where people have water blasted their roofs and cladding which released asbestos fibres or lead flakes into the air, contaminating soil and waterways.

Regional Leader Compliance Delivery, James Tricker, notes the owners had to spend tens of thousands of dollars in clean-up to make their homes safe again,” he says.

“The high pressure can cause the asbestos-containing material (ACM) to break up into airborne fibres, or lead-based paint to flake. This disturbance can have significant environmental impacts for your property, neighbourhood, and for your family’s health.”

Both asbestos and lead are known to be serious health hazards for humans, and harmful to our environment.

“Water blasting is one of the worst ways to create exposure risks by releasing the fibres from the products and damaging lead-based paint,” says Tricker.

When asbestos is disturbed, fibres are released into the air which can get deep into our lungs and cause respiratory illness.

Accidentally swallowing or inhaling large quantities of lead-based paint flakes or chips can result in lead poisoning.

Lead and asbestos are also harmful when they pollute our environment. Airborne fibres and flakes can make their way into waterways and contaminate soil. This may not only impact the health of your property, but your neighbour’s as well.

Any health or environmental risks are considered to be low if products containing asbestos or lead remain undisturbed and in good condition.

Page last updated: 02/05/2024

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