Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Environmental Diseases.


asked the Minister for Health the steps the Government are taking or plan to take to monitor environmental diseases; and if he has any plans to improve the existing facilities in this area.

I presume the Deputy is referring to the broad range of hazards to public health which may be attributed to environmental conditions, in addition to the traditional transmissible diseases.

So far as the latter diseases are concerned, there are well-established programmes of vaccination and infectious disease control. These programmes are under review at present and revised guidance will be issued to health boards shortly.

As regards other diseases of an environmental origin, which may arise from contamination of food and water, for example, co-operation is maintained between health boards and sanitary authorities. Medical officers of health and the health inspectors employed by health boards have responsibility for maintaining surveillance in these matters.

Other Departments also have functions in relation to environmental conditions with a bearing on public health. For example, the Departments of the Environment and of Industry and Energy have a common concern with my Department as regards the problem of lead pollution. There is a regular exchange of information between the Departments in the matter.

Another example is radiation, which is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Industry and Energy. Controls are provided for under the Nuclear Energy Act, 1971, and these are being supplemented to conform with an EEC Directive which lays down requirements in relation to the use, recording and authorisation of radiation apparatus and radio-active substances.

The Medico-Social Research Board, which is funded by my Department, has carried out a number of research projects relevant to the Deputy's question. These projects include recent studies of respiratory symptoms in farmers and non-farmers and an investigation of the association between natural background radiation and cancer mortality in Ireland.

The Health Education Bureau also conducts research and develops programmes which are designed to encourage a wider public appreciation of the need for a life-style which is conducive to the prevention of many ailments which are a particular feature of modern living.