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Smith says report release is personal

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 24/07/2016

Environment Minister Nick Smith is welcoming a report showing a drop in the number of people treated in hospitals for injuries caused by hazardous substances.

"This issue is quite personal for me, in that I inadvertently used paint stripper as mouth wash when a tradesperson accidentally left the product in the bathroom of my Wellington flat," Dr Smith said.

"The injury burned my throat and vocal chords, leading to my only ever hospital treatment."

The overall number of hospitalisations across all age groups has dropped from 578 to 438 over eight years, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) at the National Poison Centre in Dunedin.

The latest figures are for the 2014 year, and data collection started in 2006.

Toddlers are still the most vulnerable, with injury rates three times that of other age groups.

Many injuries occur because products such as petrol, dishwashing powder and oven cleaner are left within reach of young children.

But the number of children hospitalised with hazardous substances injuries dropped 40 per cent over the past eight years.

Under-fives are most at risk and their hospitalisation rates have dropped by 30 per cent, from 32 per 100,000 to 23. The rate for five to 14-year-olds has more than halved, from 12 to 5.2 per 100,000.

"The key to lowering risk from hazardous substances is ensuring they are stored and labelled appropriately," Dr Smith said.

"We need people to be careful not to casually leave chemicals around and not to store them in unlabelled containers."

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