Cross-border Exposure characterisation for Risk Assessment in Chemical Incidents

An accurate and precise assessment of human health risk is a cornerstone of an effective response strategy and prevention policy. European harmonisation of exposure-response guidelines is ongoing. To facilitate cross-border cooperation in chemical incident management, CERACI contributed to the interoperability of exposure assessment guidelines, tools, and practices.

Objectives of the project

CERACI (Cross-border Exposure characterisation for Risk Assessment in Chemical Incidents) aimed to strengthen the public health risk assessment for the acute phase of chemical incidents by improving exposure assessment. The outcomes contributed to improving planning, preparedness and response capabilities and enhanced transnational cooperation and interoperability of organisations involved in health risk assessment.

The objectives were to improve acute phase chemical incident exposure assessment by:

  • Identifying and describing the organisation of environmental modelling and monitoring for health risk assessment during acute chemical incidents in the EU European Union (European Union) Member States.
  • Investigating which Member States have organised collaboration and interoperability on environmental modelling and monitoring for health risk assessment nationally and across national borders.
  • Identifying and developing best practices for environmental modelling and monitoring for health risk assessment during acute chemical incidents, both technical and organisational.
  • Determining if harmonisation and collaboration in this field have the potential to improve EU response capabilities and capacities to respond to acute chemical health threats.

CERACI outputs

The main outputs of the project are:

  • Categorised and verified good practices in exposure assessment across the EU Member States
  • Guidelines for exposure assessment organisation and practice
  • A self-assessment methodology to identify gaps in capability or planning
  • Summary of response structures across the EU Member States
  • Identification of treaties and agreements for collaboration, cross-border working and mutual aid
  • A framework for a network of experts

A detailed description of the main outputs can be found in the CERACI final report. The different phases of the project are described below.

Literature review and network of experts

A review of targeted literature sources has led to a preliminary understanding of exposure assessment capability, capacity and organisation during the acute phase of chemical incidents. The review has broadly identified key organisations and agencies across the Member States involved in exposure assessment and the health risk characterisation processes during chemical incidents. A range of EU initiatives, arrangements and cross-border agreements are highlighted in the review, providing suitable reference material to be expanded within subsequent CERACI tasks. The results of the review form the basis for the web-based survey.

A paper discussing this information gathering phase of the project has been published in the Chemical Hazards and Poisons Report from the Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, Health Protection Agency. An initial contact network of experts has been created and will be expanded throughout the project. The report of the Literature review can be found in Appendix B of the final report.

Web-based survey

Building on the literature review, a web-based survey was conducted in 2011 to identify exposure assessment capabilities and best practices for chemical incident response in the Member States. Experts from 26 Member States completed the survey. Some examples of our findings are listed below. The report of the Web-based survey can be found in Appendix C of the final report.

Organisation of (international) collaboration

All countries have been identified as having institutions supervising environmental monitoring and public health exposure characterisation in case of a major chemical incident. International cooperation agreements exist at the national level.

Best practices:

  • Clearly specified scope of each institution's responsibilities in exposure assessment
  • Official protocols and procedures on responsibilities and cooperation
  • Effective information exchange
  • Regular (international) training, conferences, meetings, raising awareness of neighbouring country emergency response capabilities and networking

Field monitoring

Environmental monitoring is usually carried out during and after an incident within the emergency exclusionary zone and off-site for assessing public exposure.

Best practices:

  • Repeated monitoring, also shelter areas and other areas relevant to human exposure, especially sensitive populations
  • Specialist, chemically trained first responders in fire and ambulance services
  • Standardisation of reference values for risk assessment
  • Mobile field laboratories for both domestic and cross-border use

Laboratory network and modelling

Almost all countries have a national laboratory network. Dispersion models andGISare used by different organisations.

Best practices:

  • An interdisciplinary procedure for sampling, detection, identification and monitoring
  • Compatible dispersion models and GIS are used by risk assessors on both sides of the border


European experts on exposure assessment were invited to workshops to share their experience and good practices on the exposure assessment of chemical incidents, in particular, cross-border incidents. These workshops were held in Amsterdam and Warsaw, in Spring 2012.

A wide range of experts, covering many aspects of exposure assessment and representing various organisations, such as public health and fire and rescue services, participated in the workshops. During the workshops, exercises using scenarios of chemical incidents were used to elicit good practices, unmet needs and success factors for exposure assessment. The exercises focussed on the exposure assessment of a chemical incident within a country’s borders as well as the exposure assessment of a cross-border incident.

The delegates verified or endorsed the good practices already identified in this project. Moreover, they contributed many additional examples of good practices pertaining to both the preparedness and the response phases of an incident. Many good practices related to general aspects of exposure assessment, such as information exchange and collaboration, with less of a focus on technical aspects. This could be due to the diverse backgrounds of the delegates. When discussing unmet needs, it became clear that one country’s unmet need is another country’s good practice. This enabled delegates to learn from one another and highlighted the importance of sharing good practices in a multidisciplinary, international setting.

The workshop discussions and outcomes provided interesting ideas for future development, such as a regional cross-border approach to exposure assessment, using a regional risk profile as a starting point. The need for a network of experts in the field of exposure assessment was clearly expressed by the delegates, with the focus of the network ranging from presenting support to a country during a chemical incident to helping prepare a country for an incident. The report of the Workshops can be found in Appendix D of the final report.

Funding and Project partners

This project was co-funded by the EU, Civil Protection Financial Instrument, Grant Agreement No. 070401/2010/579055/SUB/C4
The project partners included:

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