Complaints from Southern District Health Board staff
about strange smells in a dental unit were put down to it being
new, and nothing was done, the board has confirmed.
Patient services director Lexie O'Shea confirmed in a
statement staff asked about smells in one of the seven new
oral health units that arrived between March 2010 and April
''One or two staff members queried smells in one clinic when
they first arrived, which was followed up and deemed to be
due to the vans being new.''
The units were withdrawn this month for testing because of
high levels of formaldehyde detected in a unit in Canterbury.
Other health boards have also pulled vans off the road.
Testing finished on Thursday and laboratory results would
take up to 15 days, Mrs O'Shea said.
The health board has already started a process to replace the
suspended ceiling tiles thought to be the source of the
contamination in the Canterbury unit.
University of Canterbury toxicologist Prof Ian Shaw said
without knowing more about the manufacture of the ceiling
tiles, it was unclear whether adverse health effects could
result from the exposure. It was important employers
adequately followed up staff complaints about unusual
chemical smells in equipment or facilities, he said.
Prof Shaw said health fears about formaldehyde had reduced in
recent years, but long-term exposure was potentially