A study into the health based decision-making practices currently applied to kerosene fumes exposure following a leak of domestic heating oil.
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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The problem of concern in this study was the consideration of the health implications following a leak of domestic heating oil, when occupants can become exposed to kerosene fumes indoors. Those responding to the incident are faced with the problem of what advice should be given to the occupants to protect their health. This is a difficult situation and can have devastating effects on the residents concerned. The extent and nature of the problem was assessed in terms of the numbers of leaks and cases of subsequent fuel fumes inside properties. In addition the decision making practices when considering evacuation of the affected residents were considered. This was achieved through questionnaire surveys and more detailed interview based case reviews. These methods were applied to those primarily involved in the decision making process, that is officers from local authorities and staff of the health protection agency. In order to investigate the basis of the decision making practices a literature review was undertaken focussing on legislating, standards and the relevant epidemiology. The study showed that domestic heating oil leaks are occurring across England and Wales and a portion of these cause fuel fumes to enter residential properties. Those involved in the consideration of evacuation of affected residents reported difficulties with the decision making process and a lack of sufficient guidance. Whilst clear of their roles the final responsibility for giving advice is unclear where the case is not being dealt with formally, under Part llA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. There is limited epidemiological evidence on which to base human health considerations. There is a lack of standards (or guideline values) and guidance applicable to the environmental or residential setting when considering indoor kerosene exposure. There are methods available to derive environmental standards but these are not used consistently and require further extrapolation to the, relatively short to medium term, fuel leak incident scenario. The study supported the view that those involved in considering the implications of fuel fume exposure following a leak of domestic heating oil are experiencing difficulties and the basis of the advice given was variable. The development of guidance was recommended. Other recommendations included the further investigation of monitoring methods and undertaking a background kerosene level study. Other areas of improvements included the extension of the Environment Agency's oil care campaign to cover domestic spills that do not involve water issues. To improve current practices the author with the aid of the Environmental protection (Specialist) Team at South Gloucestershire Council drafted a Domestic heating oil spill procedure guide (Appendix 8). This guide is aimed at those involved with the consideration of evacuation due to indoor kerosene fumes. The issues involved with domestic heating oil leaks can be found in other chemical incidents. The principles of guidance developed for dealing with domestic heating oil leaks could, once agreed, be applied to other common chemical incidents scenarios such as petrol leaks and solvent or mercury spills.
MSc Enviroment Risk Management
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