Published: 12 December 2013

Hazardous Substances Tool: Disease and Injury Reporting

Prescriber Update 34(4): 45
December 2013

Key Messages

  • Any disease or injury that a medical practitioner suspects is caused by a hazardous substance must be notified to the local Medical Officer of Health.
  • Hazardous substances include household chemicals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and fireworks. Medicines are not included.
  • An electronic form linked to practice management systems has been developed to make primary care notification simple and quick.
  • The form also incorporates reporting for high blood lead levels and poisoning arising from chemical contamination of the environment.

Which hazardous substances do I have to notify?

Medical practitioners must inform the local Medical Officer of Health of the following conditions.

A hazardous substance is legally defined as anything that can explode, catch fire, oxidise, corrode or be toxic to humans. This definition does not include medicines in finished dose form (and therefore most over-the-counter and prescription drugs), alcohol other than industrial alcohol, or radioactive materials.

Events that should be reported include ingestion of cleaning products or cosmetics by children, overdose with agrichemicals (including spray drift incidents), carbon monoxide poisoning, illness caused by exposure to solvents or chlorine, contact dermatitis due to chemicals, a fireworks injury and 'huffing' (inhaling) of butane.

How should I notify a case?

If you are working in primary care, look for the 'Hazardous Substances & Lead Notifications' module on the bestpractice Decision Support dashboard. Submitting the short form will send it to your local Medical Officer of Health via a secure system.

If your practice does not currently have access to the bestpractice dashboard, or you work in an emergency department or other secondary care service, you can contact your local Public Health Unit to notify them of a case (or suspected case).

What happens to the information?

Information is used in two ways. At a local level, the Medical Officer of Health and Public Health Unit staff will assess the notification and determine if further patient (or event) follow-up is required.

At a national level, the Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University uses the anonymised data for surveillance. The hazardous substances disease and injury reporting tool will provide additional information about primary care presentations, to enable more complete national surveillance.

Reports from the surveillance system are provided periodically to the Ministry of Health and each Public Health Unit to support disease and injury prevention and control activities. For example, following reports of injuries to children regulatory changes were made to the pH of dishwashing powder. This has decreased the number of children presenting following dishwashing powder ingestion.

Dr Maria Poynter
Centre for Public Health Research