Article Text

Download PDFPDF
  1. N J Langford1,*,
  2. R E Ferner2,
  1. 1Clinical Pharmacology Section, Department of Medicine, University of Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting, City Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr R Ferner, West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting, City Hospital, Dudley Road, Birmingham B18 7QH, UK;

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

The environment is composed of chemical substances, many of which are poisonous if present in large amounts, and some of which are poisonous even in small quantities. Within the industrialised world, specific concentrations of highly dangerous chemicals may be localised to a certain area, vastly increasing the risk to the local environment. Although highly regulated by legislation such as the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH), and agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (in England and Wales), or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) (in Scotland), industry has been a common source of environmental contamination. Additionally, as we discuss below, manufacturing of chemicals is not the only industrial process that places the environment at risk. Environmental poisoning can also result from the transport, storage, and secondary uses of the primary product.

Small scale releases of toxic chemical substances are common within the industrialised world.1 Their impact is usually limited by effective statutory controls and efficient emergency services, but the combination of system failures can lead to disaster. In limiting the impact of such chemical releases, effective communication is required not only between the operator and emergency services but also from the emergency services to the public. Without such communication, panic may ensue, leading to emergency and hospital services being overwhelmed and prevented from effectively pursuing their roles.

The most serious events usually have an immediate impact. Probably the best known example of this was Bhopal, where 2500 people died. However, chemical disasters can also occur where the release of toxins or contamination of products is insidious. This complicates both the detection of the cause of the poisoning and also the management of the environment and those poisoned. At the extreme, a low level continuing release of products can result in …

View Full Text


  • * Also West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting, Birmingham

  • Also Clinical Pharmacology Section, Department of Medicine, University of Birmingham

Linked Articles