To improve implementation of IHR chemical core capacities, strengthening preparedness and response to cross-border chemical health threats across the EU.
Why this work is important?
As of 2020, International Health Regulations capacity area 12, Chemical Events, (along with capacity area 11 – Points of Entry and capacity area 10 – Risk Communication) remains a main challenges in the implementation of IHR capacities in the WHO European Region. The State Party Self-Assessment Annual Reporting (SPAR) capacity average having remained unchanged between 2018-2020.
A dedicated chemicals WP is required to strengthen IHR compliance in Europe and will work to ensure that meeting the chemical obligations of the IHR has equal standing compared to other hazards (e.g. communicable disease) in line with the all-hazards approach of the IHR.
Improved implementation of IHR chemical core capacities, strengthened preparedness and response to cross-border chemical health threats within MSs and across the EU.
- Gaps or areas requiring further action in the implementation of IHR core capacities, with respect to chemicals, at the EU- and member state-level determined;
- The use of existing tools and mechanisms to respond to cross-border chemical health threats promoted, providing guidance where required. Where gaps exist, MSs supported in the development of guidance, SOPs, plans and tools to respond to cross-border chemical health threats;
- Resources to promote and to support the implementation of core capacity requirements for surveillance for chemical and environmental hazards developed;
- Materials for workshops developed, and for the purpose of training and exercising to address and promote interoperability of preparedness and response planning and sharing best practice.
The expected outcomes from WP9 include: the production of a training and exercise materials, which will be used in workshops and training during the JA, also suitable for future use beyond the life of the project; the consolidation, refinement and promotion of existing mechanisms for cross-border chemical health threat preparedness; Guidance on conducting chemical surveillance, including relevant protocols and a compilation of relevant available resources, detailed in a surveillance strategy report. The above outcomes will work towards the strengthening of preparedness and IHR chemical core capacities of European countries.
Outcomes from WP9 include the uptake and/or improvement of chemical surveillance practice in JA participating countries, along with closer linkages between Poison Centres and chemical surveillance. The combination of awareness raising by the guidance document, improved surveillance capacity and networking opportunities provided by the training program, will encourage the exchange of information and foster collaboration between EU countries against cross-border chemical health threats, which could develop into sustainable working relationships beyond the life of this JA.
The approach on this substantial area of work will be the following:
- Improving implementation of chemical core capacities
- Preparedness and response planning for chemical events
- Strengthening gaps in IHR compliance in support of the prevention, detection, risk assessment and response to chemical events
- Standardisation of current procedures for preparing and responding to cross-border chemical health threats.
Joint Action to Strengthen Health preparedness and response to Biological and Chemical terror attacks. [JA TERROR]. Start date: 01/01/2021 – End date: 31/12/2023
Outputs, activities and deliverables
- 14 – 15 October 2019 Work Package (WP) 9 Joint meeting with partners and other WPs (MS30). The presentation by Ms. Eirian Thomas, Public Health England (currently UKHSA) at the One Health Security Conference, 14-15 October 2019, Helsinki. sets the scene for work package 9 (Slide Share).
- 22 – 23 October 2019 Work Package 9 Kick-Off meeting agreed proposed activities, tasks, and assigned activities to each WP9 partner. Read the Work Package 9 Kick-Off meeting report (PDF 621KB)
- January 2020 Stakeholder consultation (MS31). WP5 hosted a workshop in Riga, Latvia on IHR Core Capacity Strengthening and Assessment. WP9 was able to capture progress and current challenges for IHR capacity area 12 – Chemicals Events. The discussions informed the fact-finding exercise.
- Gap analysis questionnaire is developed on chemical capacities in European countries. The questionnaire helps assess IHR capacities regarding chemicals including surveillance of chemical incidents (MS33) and explores current/ required chemical laboratory networks. The results inform the fact-finding report.
- May 2021, Cross-border chemical health threat preparedness at the EU and Member State level, fact-finding report detailing the current state of play with regard to cross-border chemical health threat preparedness at the EU and MS level. Includes details of identified best practices and other relevant documents (including JEE reports), questionnaires, meetings, consultations and stakeholder feedback. An action list of core capacity areas requiring further support will be produced to inform the other activities. Download the fact-finding report (D9.1) detailing the state of play with regard to cross-border chemical health threat preparedness at the EU and Member State level (PDF 1.24 MB).
- Training and exercise materials developed (MS32) with an emphasis on practical notes referenced to Annex 2 of the International Health Regulations applied to cross-border chemicals incidents; mechanisms for cross-border chemical health threat preparedness (MS35); real life scenarios and detailed case-studies; and interactive activities to add real value to the learning.
- 11 March 2022 Work package 9 presented at the Healthy Gateways Joint Action Final Conference.
- June 2022, Chemicals Threats Online Workshop (MS34) delivered online to 26 professionals across nine countries. The training was particularly well received, and the participants reported that they would recommend the sessions to others in their network.
- 14 June 2022 Chemical laboratory response network – scoping report (D9.2) outlining the desirability and the feasibility to set-up a European chemical laboratory network to respond to serious chemical health threats is published.
- 12 and 13 October 2022, second Chemicals Threats online workshop. 148 expressed an interest in attending which could reflect the need for capacity strengthening in this important area of preparedness. In the event, 83 professionals from 12 member states participated. Link to WP9 Training and exercise materials, including:
- IHR overview and requirements for chemicals
- Chemical incident preparedness
- Chemical incident response
- Risk assessment of chemicals
- Chemical incidents: Case studies
- Chemical incidents: Case studies from Slovenia
- Multisectoral preparedness and response to chemical emergencies
- Recovery of a chemical incident
- Interactive exercise, case study Melamin Chemical Factory in Kočevje, Slovenia
- Chemical incident scenario
- November 2022 WP9 – Chemical Safety and Chemical Threats MS36 – TRAINING AND EXERCISES REPORT (PDF 3.17 MB)
- September 2023, D9.2 Chemical laboratory response network – scoping report (693 KB) makes the case for a European chemical laboratory network to respond to serious chemical health threats.
- September 2023, D9.4 A report detailing of standard operating procedures (SOPs) To improve implementation of IHR chemical core capacities, strengthening preparedness and response to cross-border chemical health threats across the EU is imminent. Member States can adapt the SOPs to their national preparedness and response planning for chemical events. A primer on Chemicals threats can be accessed by creating an account at SHARP JA Training Platform (batut.org.rs). Member States can translate and adapt to country context and integrate into national training plans.
- October 2023: Best practice for public health surveillance for chemical health threats: A global literature review
- Final report (D9.3) detailing summaries of reports (e.g. on surveillance and training materials); as well as approaches to ensure sustainability beyond the life of the Joint Action
Work Package 9 partners and people
Work package 9 lead: Department of Health (DH), UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) through an affiliated entity agreement.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is responsible for protecting every member of every community from the impact of infectious diseases, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents and other health threats. As an executive agency, sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care it provides intellectual, scientific and operational leadership at national and local level, as well as on the global stage, to make the nation’s health secure.
From 1 October 2021, the UK Health Security Agency formally took responsibility for Public Health England’s health protection functions and the team of chemical threat experts continued to work on WP9 of the SHARP Joint Action. The team has bid for, led and executed large numbers of multi-agency projects including previous contributions to Joint Actions and the coordination of other EU projects which have been successfully delivered
Eirian Thomas, eirian.thomas(at)uksa.gov.uk
Tom Gaulton, Tom.Gaulton@uksa.gov.uk
Work package 9 Co-lead: National Institute of Public Health, Slovenia (NIJZ)
An associated partner, NIJZ is the central Slovenian institution for public health practice, research and education working on epidemiology of communicable and non-communicable diseases, health promotion, health protection, health system research and national coordination of preventive programmes in primary health care.
NIJZ’s main activities include national health statistics and research; identifying health threats and designing measures for their control; designing health promotion programmes; and preparing a scientific background for health-friendly policies, programmes and measures for disease prevention.
Its Center for Communicable Diseases is the National Focal Point for IHR and EWRS. In 2017 the experts from NIJZ, together with the team from Public Health England, were responsible for the preparation and implementation of the WHO JEE for Slovenia. NIJZ has successfully coordinated and participated in various EU projects. Most recently, NIJZ was the WP leader in the Healthy GateWays Joint Action.
WP9 Core team of lead partners
- Prof. Raquel Duarte-Davidson (PhD), a scientist and Head of Department with over 10 years’ relevant experience. Provides chemical specialist input to a large number of Government and EU contracts involving multi-partners across Europe on topics ranging from public health risks associated with environmental exposures to chemicals and poisons, planning, preparedness, response and recovery from chemical incidents and alerting and notification of cross boundary chemical incidents. Commissioner of the UK National Poisons Information Service (NPIS). Serves as SHARP advisor for the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER).
- Ms Eirian Thomas (MSc), a principal scientist and project manager with a postgraduate Master’s degree in Public Health with over 10 years’ relevant experience. Contributes to a variety of EU projects and applied research focusing on IHR and cross border chemical health threats.
- Dr Tom Gaulton (PhD), a public health scientist and project manager with 6 years of experience working on Joint Actions and applied research focused on IHR and cross border chemical health threats.
- Nuška Čakš Jager, MD, Specialist in Public Health, is responsible for Planning and Preparedness activities in the Centre of Communicable Diseases, NIJZ. She has broad experience in planning, preparedness and response on public health threats. She is involved in many international activities linked with ECDC and WHO. She coordinates the IHR implementation in the country working on multi-sectoral approach and responsible for preparing and carrying out simulation exercises in public health field.
- Peter Otorepec, is a medical doctor, a specialist of hygiene and occupational medicine and the Head of Environmental Health Centre. Having worked in the field of environment and health for almost 30 years, he has been involved in various EU projects on development of environment – health indicators and on the impact of exposure to air pollution and in developing method for Health impact assessment. He is the project coordinator at NIJZ, was WP8 leader for SHIPSAN ACT Joint Action, and also WP2 leader and WP8 Co-leader for Healthy GateWays Joint Action.
- Katarina Bitenc, PhD Development Associate at National Institute of Public Health Slovenia and worked on EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action.
- Viviana Golja, BSc Chem, MSc Chem, PhD, was awarded her master’s degrees in 1989 at the University of Ljubljana. She has 25-years of experience in the analytical laboratory for consumer products, i. e. food contact materials, cosmetics, detergents, tobacco products, toys, at the Institute for Health Protection, now National Institute of Public Health. She is a senior scientist in areas of chemical safety of foods (covering food contact materials), water (covering materials and chemicals in contact with water), cosmetics (cosmetovigilance), building materials and lately risk assessment of nanomaterials. In 2017, she was awarded a PhD in nanoscience from Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School. She is a member of two EFSA networks, namely on food contact materials and nanotechnologies in food and feed and has been participating in the InnoRenew CoE project.
- Anja Jutraz , researcher at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia with skills in project management and experience of European projects, interdisciplinary work, long distance collaboration, teamwork, integrated design, project based learning.
- Nina Pirnat, medical doctor, senior specialist of epidemiology, specialist of public health. She works at the National Institute of Public Health, Center for Health Ecology. As a representative of Slovenia she has participated in DG SANCO projects and in EU JA, aimed at improving the EU’s preparedness and response to cross-border health threats: SHIPSAN (2006-2008), SHIPSAN TRAINET (2008-2011), EU SHIPSAN – ACT (2013-2016), JA HEALTHY GATEWAYS (2018 – 2022).
- Darko Mehikić, medical doctor, senior specialist of hygiene, specialist of public health. He is currently employed at the National Institute of Public Health, Center for Health Ecology. He has almost 30 years’ experience of working in several different fields of public health, including: nutrition, drinking water, food safety, bathing water and communicable diseases. Furthermore, he has participated in several projects as a Slovenian representative: the EU Twinning project in Montenegro from 2010 to 2011 and the WHO project – Essential public health operations EPHO from 2017 to 2019. He is also the co-author of the first Slovenian guides for Good Hygiene Practice/HACCP in the catering sector. From 2018 to 2021, he was the Chief Health Inspector of Republic of Slovenia.
- Matej Ivartnik is an expert associate from NIJZ (Slovenian National Institute of Public Health), with a career in sanitary engineering and environmental science spanning almost 20 years. Matej is also a member of the expert group for chemical safety and drinking water and a member of the coordination group for preparedness and serious cross-border health threats. Matej has previously participated in multiple EU-wide exercises on cross-border threats to health, both as an individual and country representative for Slovenia.
- Claudia Adamič is a project officer with a university degree in economics. She has over 20 years of professional experience. For the last eight years she has been working as financial and administrative officer for European projects at the Research and Project Management Centre in NIJZ. She has been involved in almost 50 European funded projects including SHIPSAN TRAINET, JA SHIPSAN ACT and JA Healthy GateWays.
What are chemical hazards to public health
A chemical hazard refers to a chemical substance that has the potential to cause harm to life or health. Chemical hazards are mainly caused by the characteristics of chemical substances that may cause explosions, fires, or corrosions; or emit poisonous gases or mini particles.
Hazard refers to the set of inherent properties of a substance that make it capable of causing adverse effects to organisms or the environment. Exposure is process by which a substance becomes available for absorption by the target organism, organ, tissue, or cell, by any route and also concentration or amount of a particular chemical agent that reaches the target population, organism, organ, tissue or cell. Usually is expressed in numerical terms of concentration, duration, and frequency. Risk is the probability of adverse effects caused under specified circumstances by an agent in an organism, a population, or an ecological system.
Chemical agents are poisonous vapours, aerosols, liquids and solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants. They can be released by bombs or sprayed from aircraft, boats and vehicles. They can be used as a liquid to create a hazard to people and the environment.5
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