Hazardous substances can cause significant health effects, either from direct exposure or through environmental contamination. Exposure can produce a health effect directly at the site of contact (local) or elsewhere in the body (systemic), and that effect can be either immediate or delayed.
If you believe that you or your child has been exposed to, or affected by a hazardous substance, you should call the National Poisons Centre on 0800 POISON (0800 764 7666) for advice. Call 111 immediately if the person is not breathing, is having convulsions or seizures or is unconscious.
Public Health is involved in the prevention of injuries from exposure to hazardous substances. Designated Enforcement Officers enforce the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act in respect of hazardous substances in public places by:
• Responding to spray drift incidents
• Responding to hazardous substance incidents and emergencies
• Processing and auditing of vertebrate toxic agent (VTA) applications to use 1080 and cyanide
Public Health also covers hazardous substances and products that fall outside the Act but pose a risk to the public. The service provides advice and assistance on measures to mitigate these risks including:
• Providing free domestic asbestos and lead-based paint testing
• Assisting in recalls or seizures to remove hazardous products from sale or use
• Ensuring appropriate management of contaminated sites
Public Health investigates non-occupational hazardous substances injuries and exposures (e.g. cases of lead poisoning) reported to us by health professionals through the national surveillance system.
Contact: Palmerston North office 06 350 9110, Whanganui office 06 348 1775
Specific hazardous substances
For homeowners wanting a risk assessment or are undertaking renovations, we are able to arrange for the asbestos testing of building materials. Contact a health protection officer at the Public Health Service to arrange this.
This service does not apply for commercial or health and safety reasons or when the sale and purchase of a house is involved. In these situations we would recommend contacting an accredited asbestos testing laboratory (refer IANZ website
, search keyword: asbestos)
The Public Health Service offers a free lead-based paint testing and advice service to homeowners. Contact a health protection officer at the Public Health Service to arrange this.