Health protection and sustainable development

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7454.1450 (Published 17 June 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1450
  1. Jon G Ayres (j.g.ayres@abdn.ac.uk), professor,
  2. Raymond Agius (raymond.agius@man.ac.uk), professor
  1. Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2ZP
  2. Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL

    Time for joined up thinking

    The effects of environmental exposures on health have recently been addressed by two government documents: one from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and one, on sustainable development, from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).1 2 Although both address specific issues, they seem to have been written without reference to each other, leaving gaps in coverage and a failure to appreciate the need for a wider view of the environment and its impact on health.

    The Health Protection Agency, set up in the wake of the New York terrorist attack, embraces the activities previously covered by the Public Health Laboratory Service, the National Radiological Protection Board, the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, the National Poisons Information Service, and the regional chemical hazard management groups. The plan defines 12 very broad strategic and laudable goals with which one cannot really argue (box 1).

    Importantly, the plan also appreciates the need to extend the work of the agency to chronic exposures to chemicals, accepts the need for horizon scanning on the consequences of exposures to the full range of chemicals released into the environment, and the need to develop staff with the required skills. On this basis one might be forgiven for thinking that this document could be regarded as the United Kingdom's response to the European Union's call for more Europe wide collaborative coherence on the effects …

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