Health risk assessment reports

Health risk assessment reports are prepared for the Ministry of Health by ESR experts as part of our contract with them for scientific services.

You can read these reports from the links below.



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.

Dishwasher powder risk assessment [PDF, 734 KB]

Drain cleaners

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.

Drain cleaners risk assessment [PDF, 339 KB]

Formaldehyde from laminated flooring

The purpose of this report is to describe and compare international standards and health risk assessments for indoor formaldehyde inhalation exposures resulting from installed laminated flooring. Formaldehyde is a volatile reactive irritant chemical, with carcinogenic properties that forms from degrading resins and adhesives that are used in some types of wood-based materials, including laminated wood flooring. Considering that New Zealand standards for formaldehyde emission of wood-based products are stringent in comparison to those found internationally, there appears to be no evidential health risk basis to revisit existing formaldehyde emission standards from these products at this time.

Formaldehyde from laminated flooring risk assessment [PDF, 593 KB]

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.

Exposure to glyphosate formulations risk assessment [PDF, 502 KB]

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.

Bleach risk assessment [PDF, 895 KB]

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.

Hydrogen sulphide factsheet [PDF, 684 KB]

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.

Insect repellent efficacy report [PDF, 825 KB]

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.

Insecticide dispensers risk assessment [PDF, 837 KB]

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).

Lead in children's face paint risk assessment [PDF, 636 KB]

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.

Lead in children's toys risk assessment [PDF, 730 KB]

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.

Mercury in skin-lightening products risk assessment [PDF, 517 KB]

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.

Methylated spirits risk assessment [PDF, 499 KB]

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (Infant and toddler exposure to)

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).

New Zealand infants and toddler exposures to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) risk assessment [PDF, 1.8 MB]


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.

Nanoparticles risk assessment [PDF, 827 KB]

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.

Parabens in personal care products risk assessment [PDF, 613 KB]


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.

Incidental exposures to petrol risk assessment [PDF, 1.3 MB]

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.

Phthalates in children’s toys risk assessment [PDF, 937 KB]

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.

Reed diffuser fluid risk assessment [PDF, 512 KB]

Summary report - detecting dust drift from aerial application of 1080: three West Coast and Taranaki field studies

This report summarises the findings of three field studies carried out at four locations in 2019 and 2020. The purpose of the field research was to investigate whether sodium fluoroacetate (1080) is present in inhalable particulate downwind of an aerial baiting application. It should be noted that the field studies were not designed to assess potential human exposures, or health risks, and therefore these are outside the scope of this report.

Detecting dust drift from aerial application of 1080: three West Coast and Taranaki field studies [PDF, 3 MB]

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.

A scoping study characterising dust drift from aerial application of 1080 [PDF, 2.5 MB]