Assessment of Environmental Legislative and Associated Guidance Requirements for the Protection of Human Health
UKCC02 (Report)
August 2007
The Scotland & Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER) commissioned this research on behalf of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) within the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland).  Both these agencies have a responsibility under a number of legislative frameworks to ensure that the risks to human health posed by environmental hazards are taken into consideration in their decision making processes. This includes not only responsibilities under specific environmental regimes for example those concerning Pollution Prevention and Control but also wider duties in relation to, for example, the Human Rights Act 1998.

To assist agency staff and others including statutory consultees, applicants and other stakeholders to fulfill their roles and responsibilities under each of the different legislative regimes the agencies must ensure there is appropriate guidance available to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders and guidance on how to meet these responsibilities. This project seeks to identify the legal duties and responsibilities under the various legislative provisions and also assess the effectiveness of the available guidance in assisting agency staff and other stakeholders in meeting their responsibilities relating to the protection of human health.

The main objectives were to

This report deals only with the first three objectives and is intended as a technical reference document. The generic guidance (the fourth objective) is presented in a stand-alone report “UKCC02: Environmental Legislation and Human Health – Guidance for Assessing Risk”.

The project has identified a range of environmental legislative frameworks where the environment agencies have roles and responsibilities for the protection of human health. Under some frameworks the role is direct regulation e.g. Pollution Prevention Control whereas in others it may be a more advisory role e.g. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The project also highlights the differences in the legislative requirements across the administrative regions identifying the specific statutory instruments and the agencies’ roles and responsibilities in each region. For example SEPA’s role under SEA differs slightly from that of EHS and the Environment Agency in that there is a requirement to consider more plans and programs.

The assessment of the effectiveness of the existing guidance with respect to the protection of human health involved the identification of guidance under the specific regimes. Guidance users including regulatory staff, applicants and other stakeholders were consulted via questionnaires and telephone interviews for their views on the guidance – including its accessibility, general usefulness and adequacy for assessing risk to human health. Most respondents were aware of the existence of guidance under the specific regimes but many felt the guidance did not explicitly address the protection of human health.

A number of gaps were identified including the lack of transparency of regulatory criteria, the lack of technical guidance to cover specific substances and their impact on human health and the lack of explicit consideration of human health in the application of the guidance. Some respondents indicated they were not always aware of the existence of new and emerging guidance and many felt they did not have the technical skills to assess risks to human health and would require further training to develop their skills set.

The need to consult with other health-based organisations is recognised by the regulator. Most respondents felt the process did not work well in practice citing the lack of definitive advice on a site-specific basis as the main reason. The lack of awareness of guidance on effective risk communication was also identified as a gap.

The roles and responsibilities for the protection of human health under the wider regulatory frameworks of human rights and sustainable development are not well understood. Respondents indicated they had an awareness of the requirements but did not give site specific consideration to these issues rather relying on the incorporation of high level policies into technical guidance.

The second stage of this project aims to develop generic guidance to address some of the identified gaps. It will focus on

The output of this stage is presented as a stand-alone report “UKCC02: Environmental Legislation and Human Health – Guidance for Assessing Risk”.

Keywords: human health, risk assessment

Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, in electronic format on CDRom at 20.00 + VAT or hard copy at 35.00, less 20% to FWR members.
N.B. The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website