Unintentional hazardous substances-related hospitalisations

This section presents information on hospital discharge events from unintentional hazardous substances-related injuries in Aotearoa New Zealand. This Surveillance report uses data from the National Minimum Dataset from 2001 to 2022.

Each year, many people in New Zealand are injured from exposures to hazardous substances, which are often preventable (World Health Organisation 2004). Chemical contamination of the environment can harm people’s health and the environment. For example, misusing pesticides and aerial spraying with insecticides can damage the ecosystem. Hazardous substances can be widely and unsafely used, such as petrol being inappropriately stored in unlabelled drinking water bottles. Industrial workers may poorly handle large volumes of chemicals, which can be extremely dangerous. A growing number of chemicals are used around the home. If they are not used or stored properly, this could lead to hazardous substances-related injuries.

Acute health effects from exposure to a hazardous substance are diverse and include headache, nausea and vomiting, skin corrosion and burns. Chronic health effects include asthma, dermatitis, nerve damage, and cancer (MBIE 2013).

Surveillance Reports and Metadata

Surveillance Report: Unintentional hazardous substances-related hospitalisations (Nov 2023) Download report PDF
Metadata: Unintentional hazardous substances-related hospitalisations (Nov 2023) Download report PDF

Key facts from 2023

  1. Children aged 0–4 years continue to experience three times the hazardous substances-related hospitalisation rate of the next most affected age group.

  2. Cleaning products are the most common hazardous substances causing hospitalisation in the 0–4 year age group (62/180 notifications), but substances differ across ethnic groups.

  3. Males in all 10-year age groups from 15–64 experience at least double the hospitalisation rate of females of the same age.

  4. Petrol, diesel and accelerants (114 notifications) and cleaning products (108 notifications) were the most common substances causing hospitalisation in the 15–64 year age group.

To view more information about occupational lead in Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as downloadable figures and data, access the interactive report at the top of this page.

Information about the data

This indicator reports unintentional hazardous substances-related hospital discharges using data from 2001 onwards. This indicator is an analysis of the most recent data available from the National Minimum Dataset. Data has been pooled to give sufficient numbers for analysis where appropriate. For more information on the list of ICD-10 that are covered in this analysis, see metadata.

Most hazardous substances injuries are considered acute (short-term, intense exposure) rather than chronic (prolonged low intensity exposure) events. Chronic harm from hazardous substances is hard to measure because it is often difficult to determine what caused the harm. This means that data on chronic harm is hard to find and likely to underestimate the number of people affected.


1. Ministry for Business, Innovation, and Employment. 2013. Work-related disease in New Zealand. Wellington. New Zealand.

2. World Health Organisation. 2004. Guidelines on the prevention of toxic exposures. URL: https://www.who.int/ipcs/features/prevention_guidelines.pdf (Accessed November 2021)

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