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Find out more about how your organisation can benefit from ESR’s expertise, through research projects, science services, collaborative partnerships and more.
ESR partners with many different organisations to provide specialist knowledge and skills, resources, advice and expertise. Find out more about ESR's specialist areas of expertise and research services below.
As a Crown Research Institute, ESR scientists are leaders in their fields, dedicated to addressing issues of importance to New Zealand’s social, environmental and economic future.
We have broad range of research and consultancy capability encompassing risk assessment, social systems, data and informatics, genomics and more.
Our scientists can work with you to undertake scientific investigations and address research questions and social impact in a range of areas relating to the health and wellbeing of people, the environment and justice.
This may range from working with clients and end-users to design research methodologies and develop solutions through to providing specific science and research services to support wider projects.
Areas of expertise
Water & environment
Food & product
Climate change, health and wellbeing
Risk Assessment is a process intended to calculate or estimate the risk to a given target organism, system, or (sub)population (including the identification of attendant uncertainties), following exposure to a particular agent, taking into account the inherent characteristics of the agent of concern as well as the characteristics of the specific target system. The risk assessment process includes four steps: hazard identification, hazard characterisation or dose–response assessment, exposure assessment, and risk characterisation. Risk assessment aims to provide risk managers with information necessary to make good, risk-based decisions.
ESR’s risk assessment activities include assessment of risks associated with:
chemical and microbiological hazards in the food supply
discharge of chemical and microbiological hazards to the environment
the presence of intended or unintended chemicals in consumer products
Health risk assessment: Nanoparticles
The scope of this report has been defined to cover a set of simple questions relating to the identity, nature, applications and health concerns regarding nanoparticles and some nanomaterials that may be encountered in non-occupational scenarios through contact with consumer products. Nanoparticles can originate from natural sources (primary), artificial sources (secondary) or through intentional engineering as manufactured nanoparticles. The focus of this report is on manufactured nanoparticles.
Health risk assessment: Petrol
The purpose of this report is to describe exposures and risks to the New Zealand public from incidental exposures to petrol formulations commercially for sale. The report does not address occupational exposures or risks from petrol, nor does it address intentional injuries from exposures to petrol such as suicides. Injuries from explosions and burns are also outside the scope of this assessment.
Health risk assessment: Glowsticks
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for ingestion and dermal exposure to glow stick liquid contents This report will only consider domestic, non-occupational, routine and incidental exposure to the components of these products.
Health risk assessment: Microplastics
Microplastics (MPs) are ubiquitous in the environment. MPs are found in air, water, food and its packaging, soil, and personal care products. Humans can be exposed to MPs through oral, dermal and inhalation routes of exposure. MPs are mainly composed of polymers and frequently also contain additives and plasticisers. The purpose of this report is to review the evidence for adverse human health effects from inhalation, ingestion or dermal exposure to microplastics. It examines previous toxicity studies, including those considering potential in vitro effects. Overall, it found limited conclusive studies (toxicokinetic, toxicity, epidemiology, pharmacology) related to health effects of MPs. Further research is needed, including those that better reflect representatives levels of environmental exposure, and explore potential long-term chronic health effects.
Health risk assessment: Methylated spirits
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for methylated spirits intended for sale to the general public. Methylated spirits is a common household product which is readily available at a range of retail outlets. Data from the New Zealand Poisons Call Centre lists 60–80 calls a year relating to methylated spirits, ranking it between 6th and 12th annual most common cause of calls over the period 2008–2012.
Health risk assessment: Glyphosate formulations
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for glyphosate. Formulations containing glyphosate are available to the general public for weed control purposes. The herbicidal active ingredient in these formulations is usually the isopropyl ammonium salt. The most well-known brand name is Roundup, but there are at least sixteen other glyphosate containing products on the New Zealand market.
Health risk assessment: Drain cleaner
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for household drain cleaner. Surveillance of chemical injuries in New Zealand has not identified drain cleaner as a noticeable contributor. Potential exposure scenarios were considered in this report, including accidental ingestion by children and accidental dermal or ocular exposure by children and adults.
Health risk assessment: Dishwasher powder
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for automatic dishwasher powder. Exposure to dishwasher powder does not appear to be a major cause of poisoning in New Zealand. While a series of hospitalised child cases was reported in New Zealand prior to 2006, the introduction of a Group Standard in 2006, under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, restricting the pH of dishwasher powders, appears to have impacted on the occurrence of poisonings.
Health risk assessment: Household bleach
The purpose of this health risk assessment is provide the Ministry of Health with the information needed for determining whether public health actions are needed to reduce or minimise the public health risk from household bleach. Exposure to bleach is identified as a reason for enquiries to the National Poisons Centre helpline and hospitalisations in New Zealand, although no mortality has been attributed to accidental exposure to household bleach in the years studied.
Health risk assessment: Hand sanitiser
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for ingestion and dermal exposure to hand sanitiser. This report will only consider domestic, non-occupational, routine and incidental exposure to the components of these solutions.
Health risk assessment: Insecticide dispensers
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for domestic automatic insecticide dispensers. There is good evidence for acute adverse health effects in humans associated with exposure to the insecticidal chemicals present in automatic insecticide dispensers (pyrethrins/pyrethroids), but limited evidence of adverse health effects from operation of automatic insecticide dispensers, or from chronic low dose exposures.
Health risk assessment: Hydrogen sulphide
This fact sheet was prepared to help health protection officers in responding to incidents in which people may have been exposed to hydrogen sulphide.
Health risk assessment: 1080 dust drift
The purpose of this scoping study was to detect and characterise 1080 particulate downwind of an aerial baiting application. Air quality monitoring for 1080 in inhalable particulate, measured as total suspended particulate (TSP), and deposited particulate was undertaken before, during and after a 1080 aerial application operation near Kumara on the West Coast on 5 November 2015.
Health risk assessment: Reed diffuser fluid
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for ingestion of fluid contents of reed diffusers. Reed diffusers are a variety of air freshener, used to broadcast fragrance into a living or working space. The fragrant solutions have been reported to be composed of a solvent (70-90%), essential oils (10-30%) and small quantities of fragrances and other proprietary additives. This report will only consider domestic, non-occupational, routine and incidental exposure to the components of these solutions.
Health risk assessment: Heavy metals in jewellery
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for incidental exposure to heavy metals in jewellery by oral and dermal routes of exposure. This report will only consider domestic, non-occupational, routine and incidental exposure to heavy metals in jewellery. While other metals have occasionally been examined in jewellery, three metals [lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and Nickel (Ni)] seem to be of consistent concern and the current study is restricted to consideration of these three metals.
Health risk assessment: Benzene in cosmetics
Benzene is an industrial solvent which is found naturally in crude oils and as a by-product of oil-refining processes. It is classified as carcinogenic to humans and is not intentionally added to cosmetic formulations or products. However, sometimes its presence can be technically unavoidable as a residual solvent or impurity (in organic propellants) or as a contaminant. There are restrictions for the use of benzene in cosmetics both overseas and in New Zealand, where cosmetics must not contain benzene other than at a trace level. In 2021, several types of cosmetic products (deodorants, antiperspirants, sunscreens) in the US and Australia were tested and found to contain benzene. No information was found on benzene in products other than deodorants/antiperspirants and sunscreen and hence, the current risk assessment was confined to these products. The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for incidental exposure to benzene in cosmetics, and considers the most common or likely exposure scenarios.
Health risk assessment: Insect repellent efficacy
This report provides the Ministry of Health with information concerning the efficacy of different insect repellents. Diseases transmitted by arthropods cause more than one million deaths worldwide per year, establishing the mitigation of these bugs as a top priority. The wide variety of active ingredients in different repellents, including plant oil-based products, create inconsistencies in the protective performance of alternative formulations.
Health risk assessment: Mercury in skin-lightening products
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for cosmetic skin-lightening products containing mercury as an active ingredient. It is unknown how common use of mercury-containing skin-lightening products is in New Zealand, but no cases of intoxication have come to the attention of New Zealand surveillance systems. However, it should be noted that the symptoms of mercury poisoning are often negligible or non-specific and may remain undiagnosed.
Health risk assessment: Triphenyl phosphate (TPP) in nail polish
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for dermal and inhalation exposure to triphenyl phosphate (TPP) from its use in nail polish. This report will only consider domestic, non-occupational, incidental exposure to TPP. Exposure scenarios will be developed for the most common or likely exposure events.
Health risk assessment: Lead in children's toys
Lead exposures can cause lasting neurological effects in children, most notably a reduction in cognitive ability and IQ. Legacy soil and dust contamination with old paint from houses built prior to 1980 still has potential to present an exposure route of concern. Toys come into frequent direct contact with a child’s skin and mouth, and thus are of concern for any potential to be a vehicle for lead exposure. While lead in toys is not a population-wide health concern, it can represent significant hazard to individual children who may come into contact with non-compliant toys.
Health risk assessment: Lead in children's face paint
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for children’s face paint containing lead. Exposure modelling was carried out assuming either weekly or two-monthly use of face paint by young (2-3 years) or older (11-16 years) children. Modelling used either the highest lead concentration reported for children’s face paints (31,795 mg/L) or the current Australian regulatory limit (25 mg/L).
Health risk assessment: Parabens in personal care products
The purpose of this report is to develop a generic health risk assessment for exposure to parabens from the use of personal care products. This report will only consider domestic, non-occupational, incidental exposure to parabens. The current weight of evidence suggests that exposure to parabens from use of personal care products is not an immediate cause for concern for reproductive toxicity, although developments on use levels and toxicology of butyl paraben may affect this conclusion.
Health risk assessment: Phthalates in children's toys
The purpose of this report is to develop a health risk assessment for selected phthalates in children’s toys. People, particularly infants and toddlers, are often exposed to a number of different phthalates through contact with the home environment and through diet. Additionally, infants and toddlers can also receive exposure whilst in out-of-home daycare facilities and through other activities such as transport in a vehicle.
Health risk assessment: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (infant and toddler exposure)
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have emerged as persistent environmental contaminants of health concern, now commonly reported in biomonitoring studies worldwide.The aim of this assessment was to summarise key considerations in PBDE risk assessments, and to provide quantitative risk estimates of likely and worst case exposures to infants and toddlers up to 4 years of age, for the two most prominent known PBDE exposure routes: dust (car and house) and diet (breast milk and other foods).
Health risk assessment: E-Cigarette Liquids: Acute Toxicity Hazards and Health Risks
The health effects considered in this report include poisonings from e-liquids, intrinsic toxicological properties of e-liquid components, and injuries from explosions or burns and not health effects from vaping itself in the course of the intended use of e-cigarettes. This report does not consider the chronic long term health risks from vaping and therefore does not discuss the overall health considerations of e-cigarettes as alternatives to tobacco smoking or as smoking cessation aids. The purpose of this report is to summarise the literature on e-cigarette liquid acute toxicity hazards and risks.
Advice & training
Advice & training
ESR experts can provide training and professional development in areas ranging from radiation safety and blood pattern analysis to training in laboratory methods and equipment. Talk to us about meeting your training needs in areas of our expertise.
ESR has specialist laboratories, equipment and technology needed for a wide range of research in areas including microbiology, chemistry and molecular biology.
As well as our testing and analysis services, we can support with designing testing programmes to meet the needs of your organisation and industry.
Talk to us about how you can work with our experts to utilise these resources for short or longer term projects and science services.
Data, AI and Informatics
Data, AI and Informatics
ESR are leaders in data and informatics, with experts in AI, modelling, computational and information systems. With specialist expertise in health, genomics and environmental systems, we can support researchers and agencies to collect, manage and draw powerful insights from a wide range of data sources. Find out more about our Data Science and AI team, and learn about our contribution to a data-driven health system.