The Tauranga Hospital carpark was transformed into an emergency decontamination zone after a man came into contact with a toxic herbicide.
The fire service was called to set up a decontamination tent at Tauranga Hospital about 11am yesterday after St John Ambulance staff picked up a man who was believed to have ingested paraquat, a highly toxic weed killer.
Mount Maunganui St John operations team manager Gary Bishell said a 53-year-old Tauranga man was taken to hospital after ingesting a significant amount of the toxic substance.
"As a result of the toxicity of the stuff they decontaminated the patient," he said.
The two ambulance officers and the ambulance itself also had to be decontaminated as a precaution.
A hospital spokesperson said the man was taken to the emergency department to be assessed and was admitted yesterday in a stable condition. He later died.
Four fire trucks and the Hazmat unit were called to the hospital.
Tauranga Fire Service senior station officer Phil Price said paraquat could have devastating effects.
"It's quite nasty stuff. If people ingest any significant quantity of it, it's generally fatal," he said.
Mr Price said firefighters initially set up for a quick emergency decontamination but when the ambulance arrived and it appeared the patient could wait a few minutes the full tent was erected.
He said the patient and ambulance staff were showered with warm soapy water and stripped of their clothing before being admitted into the hospital.
All their clothing was bagged and tagged and would be laundered and returned to them or destroyed.
National Poisons Centre toxicologist Leo Schep said paraquat was extremely toxic when ingested.
He said the poison was hazardous when it came into contact with cuts or broken skin.
Mr Schep said the product would kill plants but lost its toxicity when it came into contact with soil and this could be used to help treat people who had been poisoned by paraquat.
"Get some soil, put it in water, shake it up and drink it," he said. He said ambulances used to carry Fuller's earth, clay-like material, for use in such situations.