The effective management of hazardous substances throughout their life cycle is necessary to avoid adverse health effects from either direct exposure or environmental contamination.

The Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service’s role relates to situations where, not withstanding other agencies' responsibilities, there is a need to protect public health.

Staff provide information and advice to the public on hazardous substances including:

  • asbestos
  • lead and lead poisoning
  • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
  • mercury
  • carbon monoxide
  • vertebrate toxic agents

Under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, public agencies have substantial roles and responsibilities:

  • WorkSafe NZ is responsible for ensuring that the Act is enforced in the workplace.
  • Territorial local authorities are responsible for ensuring that the Act is enforced on any premises situated in the district of the territorial authority. This excludes premises specified in s97 of the HSNO Act as being the responsibility of another agency.


Asbestos is the name used for a group of natural minerals that are made up of many small fibres. These fibres are very strong and are highly-resistant to heat, fire, chemicals, and wear due to friction.

In the past, the properties of asbestos made it popular for things, such as:

  • asbestos-cement cladding and roofing
  • backing material for floor tiles and vinyl sheets
  • insulation for thermal protection (eg, around fireplace lagging for insulation around pipes, heaters and hot water cylinders)
  • textured ceilings and sprayed-on wall surfaces.

Asbestos was mainly imported and used before the 1980s. Once the health risks of asbestos were known, its use was gradually stopped and replacement materials used. However, products and appliances containing asbestos may still be around, particularly in homes built before 1984.

The Nelson Marlborough Health Public Health Service is able to facilitate free testing of suspected asbestos materials for private homeowners conducting DIY home improvements. We do not undertake asbestos testing for building reports related to property sale/purchase agreements, or for commercial/rental property or for builders or other commercial enterprises. Samples may be sent directly to the laboratory in these situations.

If material is found to contain asbestos, a certified asbestos contractor should be employed to remove it.

Helpful documentation and links

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless gas generated by a variety of sources including internal combustion engines (eg, cars, trucks, forklifts), space heaters and oil or gas heaters. Poisoning can occur if such sources are used in unventilated places.

Helpful documentation and links


The main source of non-occupational exposure to lead in New Zealand is lead-based paint on and around houses built before about 1970, but particularly before 1945. Indoor rifle shooting and casting of lead fishing sinkers can also result in lead exposure. Some people will develop health problems or lead poisoning if they are exposed to enough lead.

The Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service can conduct tests on paint samples free of charge for homeowners. Alternatively, test kits are available at some paint retailers for homeowners and others to conduct their own testing.

Helpful documentation and links


Mercury may be contained within thermometers, barometers, low-energy light bulbs and other household items. Because mercury can be harmful to human health, guidance should be followed to avoid harm.

Helpful documentation and links

Vertebrate toxic agents

Permission must be obtained from a Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service enforcement officer before using any of the following vertebrate toxic agents. Permission must be given to use these agents in areas where a public health risk may be created, or areas from which drinking water is drawn.

  • cyanide
  • sodium fluoroacetate (1080)
  • yellow phosphorous
  • zinc phosphide paste
  • DRC.

Email or post the application form (below) using the contact details on the form. General advice about the application process can also be obtained.

Helpful documentation and links