AHP1403:            Enhancing Planning and Preparedness: Demonstration of an E-Learning Tool for Public Health Management of Chemical Incidents

Speaker:              David Russell, MD

Chemical incidents involving major chemical facilities and transport of toxic industrial chemicals are surprisingly common and may result in widespread environmental contamination, public exposure, and subsequent acute and chronic health effects.


This session includes an interactive demonstration of the applicability of an e-learning tool to actual events by means of working through a major chemical incident.  Discover how employing this resource can help you respond more effectively to chemical incidents, thereby protecting public health.




Chemical incidents can occur at any time and any place. Incidents include chemical accidents such as fires, explosions, leakages and spills, resulting in potential widespread contamination of air, water, soil and food. This may result in community exposure, public anxiety and potential health implications as demonstrated by incidents in Seveso (Italy, 1976), Bhopal (India, 1984), Enschede (Holland, 2000), Toulouse (France, 2001), Baton Rouge (USA 2003),Neyshabur (Iran, 2004) and recently in Lac-Megantic (Canada, 2013) . Such incidents reflect huge societal dependence upon chemicals, many of which are toxic (toxic industrial chemicals, TICs) and which are produced in vast quantities (high production volume chemicals; HPVs). The toxicity of chemicals is further underlined by their deliberate release, as demonstrated by the Tokyo Sarin incident (1995) and alleged recent release in Syria.

The presentation will provide an overview of the e-learning tool developed by the WHO Collaborating Centre for chemical incidents. Comprising lectures, case studies, audio-visual materials, exercises and self -assessment questionnaires, the presentation will provide a practical overview of this freely-available module. It will be of benefit to a multi-disciplinary audience, including policy makers, emergency personnel, public health and emergency physicians, emergency planners, environmental health officers and toxicologists alike. In accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005) it provides a basis for enhancing capacity and resilience for chemical public health emergencies, thereby contributing to planning and preparedness and safeguarding the public. It will culminate in the presentation of an exercise based upon a true incident involving widespread air pollution and subsequent public health concern.