Did methyl bromide kill Rick Graham?

JIM CHIPP
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012
Rick Graham
Before his time: Rick Graham with his daughter Anna.

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Rick Graham was a very healthy person, says his daughter Anna McGeorge.

"He had never had a sick day in his entire life, never even had a cold, never took a day off."

He worked as a travel and shipping agent all his working life, in New Zealand and Britain.

"My Dad was a really hard worker. There was no way he was going to retire," Ms McGeorge said.

After he "retired" he continued to keep busy, inspecting imported cars after they had been fumigated on Wellington's waterfront for about five years.

"At his 70th birthday in 2002 I noticed he was having trouble getting his top button done up," she said. "My Dad was always meticulously dressed."

Mr Graham was initially diagnosed with arthritis, but two years later Ms McGeorge, who was living in Britain, noticed his condition had deteriorated.

Later, in a British hospital, Mr Graham was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He died about five years ago.

Ms McGeorge says his work on the waterfront inspecting imported cars after they had been fumigated exposed him to methyl bromide.

"I firmly believe that this was how my father contracted this illness," she said. "I can't attribute it to anything other than this."

Ms McGeorge said her father would have wanted his story told.

"My father would want anyone to be helped in any way. That was his absolute ethos in life."

Methyl bromide is a gas used to fumigate imported and exported goods. It has been recognised as extremely damaging to the ozone layer.

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Authority banned its use without systems to recover and recycle used gas from 2021.

It is regularly used on Wellington's waterfront to fumigate export logs and imported goods, either in containers or in ships' holds, but without recapture systems.

In 2005, it was possibly linked to six cases of motor neurone disease in the vicinity of Nelson Port.

Motor neurone disease is a neurological condition that causes degeneration of certain brain and spinal-cord nerve cells.

Patients progressively lose muscle control and die within four years.

There is no cure or effective treatment.

Do you know someone else who was affected?

Do you know of anybody who has or had motor neurone disease and was associated in any way with Wellington's wharves?

If you want to tell us about it email james.chipp@fairfaxmedia.co.nz.

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