Hot topics

The Office keeps an eye on many topics in the science world. Below you’ll find brief overviews of a selection of topics, with links to reputable sources for further information.

1080

The use of 1080 has led to substantial reductions in rat, stoat and possum populations in Aotearoa New Zealand, playing a crucial role in protecting native plants and animals, especially in large, inaccessible landscapes where other pest control methods like trapping and hunting aren’t feasible. There is no evidence that 1080 builds up in the environment or causes human health harms through waterways.

Download our 1080 overview (PDF, 189KB)

5G and health

While there have been some concerns raised around the use of 5G, it is extremely unlikely that there will be any adverse effects on human or environmental health from cell sites that comply with New Zealand standards. Our cell sites are independently monitored to ensure they meet New Zealand standards, and the Ministry of Health has an expert advisory committee that reviews new research so that conclusions around 5G and health continue to be informed by the latest evidence.

Download our 5G overview (PDF, 184KB)

Read our 5G information sheet

Climate change

Human activities, especially burning fossil fuels and intensifying agriculture, have caused global temperatures to rise by more than 1˚C above pre-industrial levels, impacting the physical environment, ecosystems, and people. Countries are aiming to keep warming below 1.5˚C, and Aotearoa New Zealand is working towards net zero emissions by 2050.

Download our climate change overview (PDF, 213KB)

Folic acid

Folic acid is a supplement that, taken early in pregnancy, reduces the chances of the baby developing neural tube defects, which have serious health impacts. By mid-2023, industry will be required to supplement non-organic wheat flour with folic acid, a measure that is safe and has been shown to reduce the occurrence of neural tube defects.

Download our folic acid overview (PDF, 160KB)

Kauri dieback

Kauri dieback is a disease caused by a fungus-like pathogen, first detected on the mainland in 2008. We can curb its spread through collaboration between scientists, the public, government, and councils.

Download our kauri dieback overview (PDF, 175KB)

Microplastics

Microplastics are found throughout the environment as well as in the bodies of animals and humans. Their impact on ecosystems and human health aren’t well understood; researchers in New Zealand and globally are working to find out more.

Download our microplastics overview (PDF, 190KB)

Myrtle rust

Myrtle rust is a fungal disease that has been affecting and killing plants in New Zealand since at least 2017, including taonga species. All New Zealanders can do their bit to combat its spread.

Download our myrtle rust overview (PDF, 182KB)

Read our myrtle rust information sheet

 

PFAS contamination

PFAS compounds, a group of nearly 5,000 widely used chemicals with heat- and water-resistant properties, can theoretically cause harm, but the Ministry of Health advises that levels of exposure in New Zealand are too low to pose meaningful health risks. Certain PFAS chemicals have been effectively banned or restricted in New Zealand to keep people and the environment safe, however there are still some broad concerns about the impacts of PFAS.

Download our PFAS contamination overview (PDF, 205KB)

Vaping

Vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes but isn’t completely safe. The Ministry of Health’s position is that vaping can be used to help smokers quit but is best avoided by non-smokers.

Download our vaping overview (PDF, 248KB)