Field: Damage-reducing technique
Global Technical function: Managing
Technical Function Unit: Strategic planning
Geographic Area: Norway

ENVIRISK

Environmental issues related to public or environmental health are a main determinant of quality of life. ENVIRISK is one of the projects that have been working towards better understanding of these issues, and towards finding practical ways how the safeguarding of environmental health can become an essential part of all social and economic activities. 

Coordinated by the institute NILU in Norway, the project has provided structured reviews of findings from two main long-term European health and environment programs in the Czech and the Slovak Republics running for the past 20 years. A method has been formulated to assess the health risk of environmental selected stressors (polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), particulate matter (PM) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)). The seven different institutes involved in the project have presented a method for identifying health risks caused by the exposure to environmental factors. Statistical methods for benchmark dose determination and methods for exposure assessment from dietary intake of PCBs and for ambient concentrations of PAHs have been developed. Moreover, the results facilitate quantitative assessment of the benefits of alternative preventions and targeted policy measures with regard to their respective costs. Further developments and applied methodologies for environmental health impact assessment (based on the specific cases) have established an integrated monitoring methodology that could be needed at both national and European levels.

The results from this project have been important input to high-level work within environmental health issues.  At the time of the project start in 2006, the development of the Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010 (EHAP) was underway. A number of projects, including this particular one, were funded under the EU sixth framework programme (FP6), a grant funding programme for research and development (Priority 8.1 Policy-oriented research) to support environmental health in policy and legislation. They formulated an operational framework and a set of methodologies called “integrated environmental health impact assessment”.  The largest integrated projects were INTARESE and HEIMTSA, and a coordination action called HENVINET. All in all, these linked projects have resulted in two web-based platforms for strategic planning and for managing environmental health issues, now ready for dissemination and use.

Unfortunately, these damage-reducing techniques are no longer a top priority for decision makers, and the implementation of the EHAP has been suffering from a lack of dedicated resources. The changed priorities have affected the uptake of the outcomes from this project and from the ones linked to it – without a clear receiving part and an interest for the results, activity is naturally declining.  Apart from the scientific uses of the project results (reviews and frameworks) the results could be utilized by public authorities at all levels as they demonstrate a specific approach to environmental health issues. The methodologies are important for environmental education of health professionals, for raising awareness and training of professionals responsible for health and security, environmental health, and environmental and strategic impact assessment. However, the full utilization of the results will only be possible if a new Environment and Health Action Plan or a similar initiative is implemented at European levels. Thus, the technology readiness level is estimated to be 6 on the TRL scale, according to the scope of the sixth framework programme, which provides public grant partial funding for R&D.