The first edition of the Chemical Hazards and Poisons Report published by Public Health England emphasises the breadth of multi-agency working carried out by CRCE staff.
Emergency situations requiring specialised, skilled response occur regularly – be they chemical accidents, deliberate attacks or extreme weather events. A series of articles describes the ongoing preparation for such situations. The Home Office describes its Initial Operational Response policy for blue light services responding to hazardous material incidents, which is being launched this month, and the Government Decontamination Service explains its work as a source of decontamination and recovery expertise. The public health impact of major incidents can be assessed by setting up a register of people affected by the incident, a concept which is introduced in a further article.
Air quality – both indoor and outdoor – is an important public health issue affecting all people, young and old, rich and poor, and urban and rural dwellers. In this edition a number of articles reflect on how poor air quality can affect health, and describe scientific projects and programmes to address this. Outdoor air pollution from traffic emissions disproportionately affects those specific communities living closest to main roads and Sheffield City Council has been supporting community groups, who are best placed to know areas of particular local concern, to conduct their own air quality monitoring.
Outdoor emissions contribute to indoor air pollution, but there are additional sources of pollutants inside the home, which is of particular interest as that is where most people, including vulnerable individuals, spend most of their time. PHE staff report results of their recent analysis of air quality monitoring in a number of properties in response to complaints of ill health from residents. Measures to tackle indoor sources of carbon monoxide are the subject of an article by Halton Housing Trust. The impact of annoyance on public health is also discussed, following an analysis of annoyance reports in Wales, a study which identified such complaints to be significantly associated with deprivation.
The changing chemical components of our atmosphere can have other, less obvious effects on our health. PHE staff describe how they identified higher than expected levels of ultraviolet radiation in April 2013, which led to sunburn reports, due to a temporary decrease in stratospheric ozone.