Sir Peter Gluckman defends meth report following criticism from researcher

Morning Talk 06/06/2018
Meth house testing. Photo: Newshub.

A Government report released last week found no evidence methamphetamine residue on household surfaces from smoking impacts health.

The report has caused an outpour of finger-pointing over who is to blame. Housing NZ admitted on The AM Show that the excessive standards resulted in $100 million over four or five years being spent on decontamination.

But one professor has called out the report for ignoring key research about the health effects caused by meth residue.

Dr Jackie Wright, adjunct professor at Flinders University, told Mark Sainsbury that the report’s advisor Sir Peter Gluckman and his staff dismissed her research.

Dr Wright told RadioLIVE that her case studies demonstrate the health effects associated with meth residue, particularly in children. She put forth that there can be health consequences at meth residue levels between two and 20 micrograms of meth detected per 100 square centimetres after cleaning – but the new standard has been set at 15 micrograms.

“They certainly didn’t pay any weight to those case studies in their review.”

Dr Wright remarked that ignoring her research could suggest the team was biased towards its ultimate direction - to save money for the Government.

“By them dismissing what I’ve done, and they saying ‘well we don’t have any published studies’, potentially it’s biasing their report.”

But Sir Peter quickly countered Dr Wright’s claims.

The Prime Minister's Chief Science Adviser told RadioLIVE that his team reviewed Dr Wright’s research, but determined that the case studies didn’t apply to the report’s concern.

“Her data is about meth labs that have been cleaned… It’s not about passive smoking, passive exposure in ordinary houses.”

Sir Peter told Mark Sainsbury that the report considered international research on meth exposure “at much, much higher levels” than what the new standard has been set at.

"Everything in life involves understanding relative risk and proportion. Here we've got a situation where the risk is very very low."

“Relative to everything else we can ascertain, this is a negligible risk,” he added.

Sir Peter reiterated that the Prime Minister had no input in the review or conclusions. 

Housing New Zealand (HNZ) will now use a new standard of 15 micrograms of meth detected per 100 square centimetres after cleaning, expecting to save $30m a year in remediation and testing. That's 10 times the current limit of 1.5 micrograms. It used to be 0.5 micrograms after cleaning.

Listen to the full interviews with Jackie Wright and Sir Peter Gluckman above.

Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury, 9am - 12pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.