[Press and Publications] Government to Explore New Ways to Reduce Risks to People's Health from Chemicals

December 2000

No 217

A government report, published today, sets out a programme of work to improve the way health risks from chemicals are assessed. Proposals include work to improve assessment of human exposure to chemicals, and computer based models to get a better estimate of risks.

The sustainable management of chemicals - including pesticides and medicines as well as industrial chemicals - and the protection of human health in the workplace, the environment and in the home is dependent on an assessment of risks posed by each particular chemical. Such assessments form the basis of regulatory controls to limit exposure.

The report has been produced by the Interdepartmental Group on Health Risks from Chemicals (IGHRC). Dr David Shannon, Chief Scientist at MAFF, who chairs the Group said: “The overall aim of the group is to reduce the uncertainties and limitations in the process of assessing risks to people’s health from chemicals. The report sets out what we have done so far and our plans for the next two years.

We recognise that progress will only be possible with the support of, and collaborative partnerships with, stakeholders. We are inviting them to comment on the report and to work with us to meet the objectives.

Looking towards the horizon we will be considering how information from the human genome project can be harnessed to improve the way we assess the risks from chemicals.

Reducing Risks

Proposals in the IGHRC work programme up to 2002 include:

  • The production of guidance documents - to help increase transparency, coherence and consistency;
  • The formation of working groups - for example, a group has been established to promote the development of computer models for assessing toxicity of chemicals on target organs and for examining the range of human susceptibilities;
  • Sharing experience and initiating change by arranging courses on specific aspects of risk assessment.
  • The report - The Interdepartmental Group on Health Risks from Chemicals: First Report and Forward Plan to 2002 - is available from the IGHRC Secretariat, MRC Institute for Environment and Health (IEH), University of Leicester, 94 Regent Road, Leicester, LE1 7DD, UK or from the IEH website http://www.le.ac.uk/ieh/

    Notes to Editors

    1. The Interdepartmental Group on Health Risks from Chemicals (IGHRC) is an informal committee of representatives from Government Departments, Agencies and Research Councils with an interest in chemical risk assessment. It operates as a subgroup of the Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment (ILGRA).

    2. The purpose of ILGRA is to help secure consistency and coherence in the policy and practice of risk assessment as undertaken by Government, and to help disseminate and advance good practice. ILGRA reports to Ministers.

    3. The MRC Institute for Environment and Health provides the secretariat of the IGHRC. The Institute was established by the Medical Research Council at the University of Leicester in 1993. The Institute is partly funded by the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions, The Department of Health and other Government departments and agencies by way of specific research and consultancy contracts.

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