Environmental Legislation and Human Health – Guidance for Assessing Risk
UKCC02 (Guidance)
August 2007

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 carried out.

Structure of this guidance

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 do?

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 assist decision-making.

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 decision making.

Legislative Context
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 regions.

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.

Target Audience

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.

N.B. The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website