23 Dec 2019

Shipping container science lab installed in Tonga

11:47 am on 23 December 2019

A new environmental health laboratory made from two shipping containers has been installed in Tonga.

Tonga's new environmental health laboratory.

Tonga's new environmental health laboratory. Photo: ESR

At a cost of about $US300,000, the lab is funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme and delivered by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR).

The mobile container lab will be based at Vaiola Hospital, in the Tongan capital of Nukuʻalofa.

ESR project leader Matt Ashworth said the lab would be used to test the safety of drinking water and prevent mosquito-borne illness, such as dengue fever and zika.

"The lab is intended to provide support to the environmental health team here in their operational duties to enable them to do drinking water analysis, vector identification and insecticide susceptibility testing."

A little bit further down the line it would help with food safety and outbreak investigation.

Mr Ashworth said the lab was set up as part of the Healthy Tonga Environments project, and involved upskilling staff from Tonga's Environmental Health Unit.

"There's a whole system approach to working with environmental health and creating an uplift in delivery for the Kingdom... assisting staff within the unit to access further training through continuous professional development using the undergraduate course in environmental health that's provided by Fiji National University."

ESR said shipping containers were chosen for their "low maintenance shell, which also provides good physical security".

The laboratory comprises of two 40-foot containers connected along their sides to create a 12.2m long structure, which is about 5m wide.