Environmental Legislation and
Human Health – Guidance for Assessing Risk
PURPOSE OF THIS GUIDANCE
This guidance aims to raise the awareness of the need to protect human
health and presents a simple risk assessment methodology that could be
applied to address some of the specific gaps in the current guidance
documents identified in the initial stages of this project as reported
in SNIFFER (2007)1.
It also seeks to provide some clarity with respect to the regulatory
criteria for the protection of human health as the lack of transparency
on the origins of regulatory criteria leading to doubt as to whether
human health is adequately protected was identified as a gap.
This document does not seek to address identified gaps in the guidance
relating to the wider regulatory frameworks of sustainable development
and human rights or on risk communication but will signpost the user to
existing guidance. It is likely the agencies will need to develop
further guidance on these issues.
How to use this guidance
This guidance forms a generic technical framework and may be adapted
for application within the specific environmental legislative regimes.
It is not intended that this guidance will replace existing good
practice guidance for the protection of human health where available
under the specific regimes, e.g. contaminated land.
In applying this guidance it is imperative the user takes account of
the particular legislative context within which the work is being
Structure of this
Section 1 outlines the purpose of this guidance. Section 2 provides an
overview of the risk assessment process. Section 3 presents a tiered
methodology for assessing risks to human health and signposts users to
existing information and guidance that may be of relevance. Details of
other health-based organisations that may be able to provide some
assistance and/or expertise are given in Section 4.
What does this guidance
The environment agencies recognise the explicit consideration of human
health impacts is a relatively new area of work to some of their staff
and there may be skills gaps that need to be addressed to enable
robust, transparent and consistent regulation.
This document outlines a tiered methodology for assessing risks to
human health and signposts currently available information that may
Assessing risks to, or impacts on, human health is technically complex
and requires the consideration of many influencing factors on a site
specific basis. It can also be an emotive area of work influenced by
risk perception and involving risk communication. This guidance assumes
that users will have access to other resources e.g. in-house human
health experts or external advisory bodies to assist in drawing
conclusions on a site specific basis.
It is likely agency staff already consider the potential risks to human
health in their regulatory functions although the assessment may not be
undertaken in a formal manner. Information relevant to the assessment
of human health risks will have been supplied to the agencies in many
forms e.g. as part of the PPC application process and this guidance
directs the user to these readily available sources of information.
This guidance seeks to provide a framework to enable the extraction and
use of relevant data in a logical and transparent way enabling robust
The legislative context can vary across the different administrative
regions and SNIFFER (2007) reports on the identification of the
requirements for the various environmental frameworks across the
This guidance is intended to be applicable across all regions although
as part of the risk assessment process the user must check the
legislative context for the region in which they are working.
Throughout this guidance the user is signposted to other documents that
may be helpful in assessing potential risks to human health and
available at the time of publication of this document. It is the
responsibility of the user to ensure they are using the most up-to-date
guidance and standards. The references provided here are not intended
to represent an exhaustive list.
This guidance is concerned only with the environment agencies roles and
responsibilities for protection of human health and therefore does not
cover workplace health and safety or occupational exposure.
This guidance is aimed primarily at the staff of the environment
agencies who need to be familiar with how to meet the requirements for
the protection of human health under the relevant environmental
legislative regimes. It will also be of use to other stakeholders
including the regulated community e.g. applicants and other bodies that
the agencies are required to consult with when fulfilling their roles
and responsibilities. These may include the health boards, the NI
health and social services boards and local authorities amongst others.
It is intended that this guidance will be of benefit to users who
undertake and/or review human health risk assessments.
Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, in electronic
format on CDRom at £20.00 + VAT or hard copy at
£25.00, less 20% to FWR members.
The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website