A number of European and international IT platforms are used to notify competent authorities of new potential chemical exposures. Recently the European Parliament and the Council of European Union adopted new legislation that aims to improve the co-ordinated response to cross border health threats (Decision 1082/2013/EU). The Decision, inter alia, sets provisions on notification, ad hoc monitoring and coordination of public health measures following serious cross border threats to health from biological, chemical and environmental events as well as events that have an unknown origin. The legal instrument applies to all European Union Member States and is comparable to the International Health Regulations in its content, requirements and adoption of a multiple hazards approach. An inter-sectoral and multidisciplinary response to events with potentially dangerous cross border exposure pathways is often required. For example, European Poisons Centres may be aware of cases of toxic exposure to a product and, in parallel, trading standards may be aware of the same product due to a breach of consumer product standards. Whilst both cases would have been recorded for separate purposes in different alerting systems, they relate to the same exposure pathway; therefore a process for linking these records would allow a more robust approach to risk assessment and risk mitigation. The Decision seeks to reconcile this issue for serious threats by linking relevant platforms into one overarching higher level risk management IT platform called the Early Warning Response System (EWRS). This system will serve to link other sectors within the European Commission (EC) to public health (e.g. medicines), as well as other EU agencies and international bodies via co-notification features. Other European alert systems will be linked to EWRS to facilitate information sharing at both the assessment and management levels. This paper provides a timely overview of the main systems run by the EC and other international organisations that provide alerts following chemical incidents that have, or may have, the potential to affect public health. The advantages and further considerations of linking these different systems and sectors are also highlighted. Recommendations are made with the purpose of ensuring that modifications to these systems made to satisfy with EU legislation enable a more timely coordinated response and greater awareness of events in Europe, thereby reducing the public health impact from chemical exposures.
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The views expressed in this article are the authors' and do not necessarily reflect those of Public Health England. The authors would like to thank the European Commission for funding the work under the Chemical and Radiological Medical Emergency Countermeasures [Framework Service Contract No. 2009 61 05 — Lot 2; Service Contract Agreement No. 2010 61 22] tender that gave rise to the Action Cards as well as the supporting EU co-funded European Chemical Emergency Network Project ( www.ECHEMNET.eu ; EC Grant Number 20121101 ). The authors would also like to thank the Alerting, Reporting and Surveillance system for chemical health threats project, phase III ( www.ASHT.eu ; EC Grant Number 20111101 ) and ECHEMNET group for reviewing the manuscript and providing helpful comments. Lastly many thanks to colleagues and project partners for their comments and support.
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