The Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE) provides support to the NHS, emergency services and local authorities in dealing with the management and consequences of chemical incidents.
CRCE runs a 24 hour on-call service to assist public health professionals, local authorities, and the emergency services in the management of acute incidents such as fires, spills and explosions. The Centre can provide expert advice in areas such as environmental toxicology and emergency management protocols. It can also facilitate communication links between responsible agencies.
CRCE can also assist the Public Health Community in the follow-up of chemical incidents, providing expertise in epidemiological methods, questionnaire design, and communications strategies.
Information on some of the more commonly encountered chemicals, such as mercury, lead and carbon monoxide, can be found in this section, with details for both the public and professionals on how to respond to incidents.
There is considerable public concern about the potential adverse health effects of chemicals within the environment. Chemicals such as minerals, metal ores and atmospheric gases exist naturally in the environment whilst other chemicals have been purposely manufactured.
Society as a whole is extremely dependent upon chemicals. They are used daily in food production and preservation, water sanitation, housing, housekeeping and household equipment, transportation and health. This dependence is supported by a vigorous industrial chemical synthesising base, with distribution by a transport infrastructure of railway and road haulage, sea and air cargo. The magnitude of chemical utilisation is underlined by the fact that over 25 million chemicals exist within the "Universe of Chemicals", 70,000 of which are in regular use, with 49 million tonnes transported around the UK on an annual basis.
These chemicals may be beneficial, neutral or harmful. Beneficial chemicals are generally those that form part of our diets or those that are purposely taken, such as medicines, to cure illness. However some chemicals, including some that occur naturally, may be harmful to human health or the environment. The degree of harm from exposure to these chemicals depends on the amount of the chemical (dose) to which the affected population or individual is exposed.
CIE Toolkit is an EU DG SANCO funded project which aims to reduce the burden of disease created by chemical incidents, with the development of a toolkit that provides guidance and training to enable public health care professionals to respond rapidly and effectively to any such incidents.