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May 21, 2008

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HPA records an increase in chemical incidents

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has revealed that it recorded 1015 chemical incidents in England and Wales in 2007 — up five percent on the 2006 figures.

Fires were the most common cause of chemical releases, accounting for 28 per cent of the 2007 total. Chemical spills were 14 per cent of the total, and leaks of chemicals were also 14 per cent. Releases of vapours and gases (including carbon monoxide gas) were 15 per cent.

The information is revealed in the HPA’s Chemical Incident Surveillance Review 2006—2007, available to download as a PDF from the link below.

The incidents varied in seriousness, from a major fire at a plastics’ factory in Corby, Northamptonshire, to broken mercury thermometers inside people’s homes.

Dr Patrick Saunders, lead editor of the report, said: “Providing specialist advice to help the public health response to chemical incidents is a major function of the HPA. The surveillance system for England and Wales helps the HPA anticipate emerging trends and reduce exposure to chemical incidents.” He added: “The database shows that chemical incidents don’t usually cause fatalities in England and Wales but there is a risk of short term symptoms and health effects in some cases.”

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