Dental van off road for toxic tests

A mobile oral health clinic which treats thousands of school children in Marlborough has been taken off the road for urgent toxic chemical testing.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board took the precautionary measure after airborne formaldehyde levels three times the national average were found in a mobile dental van in Canterbury.

Dental therapists at the Canterbury clinic had complained about an acrid smell in the van and they suffered from headaches, nausea, itchy eyes, runny noses, aggravated asthma and skin irritation.

They feared the high potency smell was putting their patients - preschool and primary schoolchildren - at risk.

Canterbury District Health Board's 22 mobile clinics have been taken out of service to be tested and decontaminated.

However, the board has received expert advice from independent occupational health physician Dr Andrew Hilliard who moved to assure the risk to people's health was "very low".

Testing was being carried out on Marlborough's mobile unit and results were expected by the end of the week.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's general manager of clinical services Peter Bramley said there had been no reports staff or patients had been affected.

Bramley said once the results were received the board would act under guidance from Worksafe NZ and follow national safety standards.

Patients have been notified of the temporary closure of the mobile clinic and where possible appointments rescheduled.

Staff rostered to work in the mobile clinic have been rostered back into the community oral health clinic until further notice.

Bramley said oral health staff were rotated on roster to the mobile clinics and no one person had been permanently stationed there.

The two-chair mobile unit was rolled out in Marlborough in March 2012. It treated preschoolers and pupils up to year 8 at Havelock, Renwick, Seddon, Ward and Picton schools.

The Marlborough Express