HPA Releases Chemical Hazards Report

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The Health Protection Agency has today published its Chemical Hazards and Poisons Report to coincide with its annual conference in Warwick.

One chapter reveals how the Agency is developing a best practice methodology for dealing with carbon monoxide incidents.

The Agency’s best practice ‘toolkit,’ which is currently being tested, includes a flowchart specifying how the Agency’s Health Protection Units should deal with carbon monoxide incidents, from identification of the source of carbon monoxide until the incident area is declared safe.

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Carbon monoxide - a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas created from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels - causes more than 50 accidental deaths a year in England and Wales.

An article by the British Geological Survey and the University of Edinburgh reveals how satellites can now track tiny movements in the earth’s crust. Parts of London have been sinking by up to 3mm a year (1990s) while other areas are ‘heaving’ upwards by up to 2mm a year. The mapping technique can be used to show the vulnerability of ground to natural disasters and is being tested by the European Space Agency in many cities across the EU and beyond.

Another topic covered is a review of the risks posed to Montserrat islanders from exposure to volcanic ash. Although volcanic activity, starting in 1995, has made much of the south of the island uninhabitable, the Montserrat government accepted British scientific advice in 1997 that the island did not have to be completely evacuated. However, the health risks created by the potential inhalation of ash particles suspended in air remains a concern to around 4,000 islanders who live in the north.

Professor Anthony Seaton and Agency scientist Professor Robert Maynard concluded that while the risk to health from exposure to ash particles is relatively small in comparison to volcanic eruption, special care should be taken to reduce exposure to children and workers as well as the overall population.

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