Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards
Publication date: October 2010
This issue of the Chemical Hazards and Poisons Report highlights the considerable concern about how to best respond to public health aspects of large fires involving materials such as hydrocarbons, car tyres, liquid petroleum gas cylinders, alcohol and unspecified waste products, of note was the explosion and fire at the Buncefield oil depot in Hertfordshire in December 2005. Following this fire the Major Incident Investigation Board of the Health and Safety Executive recommended that:
The new arrangements, in place since 1 April 2010, for the new multi-agency Air Quality Cell (AQC), has been developed and is co-ordinated by the Environment Agency with key partners including the Health Protection Agency (HPA), Food Standards Agency, Met Office and Health and Safety Laboratory. Available on a 24/7 basis, the AQC convenes virtually and covers England and Wales. The AQC deploys mobile Incident Response Teams to the incident site, who have real-time air monitoring capabilities. Using these data and improved air dispersion modelling, the AQC advises on public health impact at the outset of incidents . In this issue, we discuss the public health aspect of fires involving waste materials, and describe three large fires where an AQC has been activated: in Shropshire in 2009, where the concept of an AQC was exercised, in Doncaster in June 2010 and in West Yorkshire in July 2010. By having access to the resources of an AQC, monitoring data provided real time information improving our ability to communicate clear public health messages.
In July 2010 the HPA and its associate partners British Paediatric Surveillance Unit, National Poisons Information Service, Supra-Regional Assay Service, Health Protection Scotland, Health Service Executive, Republic of Ireland, Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland and Public Health Wales announced our project on the Surveillance of raised blood Lead levels in Children (SLIC) www.hpa.org.uk/chemicals/slic.
Public health interventions have succeeded in removing most sources of lead from the environment. However, a small proportion of children continue to be exposed to harmful levels of lead, usually in the home. Exposure to lead in children is associated with a range of adverse health effects, from sub-clinical neurodevelopmental impairment to encephalitis. We consider that the study will provide important information on the management of cases, both clinically and in terms of the public health response. It is important to share our progress and this report has two articles on lead: one on the health protection response action card and the other on findings from a public focus group.
The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are of vital import in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, where sustainable development and efficient use of water resources are a recognised global concern. Will we meet the MDG for halving the proportion of the population (from 1990 levels) without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015? A paper offering some hope is presented in this issue.
Hard copy not available
Last reviewed: 26 October 2010