On 24 September 2019, Health Protection Scotland (HPS) published the latest HIV surveillance report, which provides updated diagnoses data to 30 June 2019.
Between January and June 2019, HIV antibody positive test results for 184 individuals were received from NHSScotland laboratories, which includes 96 first ever HIV diagnoses and 88 diagnoses which were known to have been recorded previously out-with Scotland. It is estimated that there are 5,484 individuals living with HIV in Scotland, of whom almost three quarters (73%, 4,024) are male and the remaining 27% (1,460) are female.
The next surveillance report, providing diagnoses data to 30 September 2019, will be published in November along with a commentary to coincide with World AIDS Day on 1 December 2019.
On 19 September 2019, Eurosurveillance published a rapid communication led by Public Health England (PHE), highlighting two new variants of Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) escaping detection by the Aptima Combo 2 (AC2) assay in England between June and August 2019. These variants were identified in the clinical specimens of two patients, of which one had a C1514T mutation and the other a G1523A mutation. The prevalence of such variants among persons tested for CT in England was estimated to be less than 0.003%.
In Scotland, the single laboratory which uses this AC2-CT assay tested 3,023 samples for CT during the same period referred to in the PHE communication. Of the chlamydia negatives recorded, 62 were re-tested on the ACT assay. Three samples gave discrepant results and were sequenced by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Gonorrhoea and Other STIs at Örebro University in Sweden, no mutations were identified. Thus, there is no evidence of these chlamydia variants being present in the Scottish population at this point in time.
Source: Eurosurveillance, 19 September 2019
The Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR) has published its annual report on the quality of private water supplies in Scotland.
According to the report, a total of 42,440 tests were taken from regulated private water supplies in 2018, which are those supplying more than 50 people or a commercial activity. Of these tests, 93.5% met the required standard, but 11% of these supplies had a sample that contained E. coli, a bug which indicates faecal contamination and potentially causes serious illness.
Compliance figures have not changed significantly for the past three years, suggesting that limited improvements are been made in spite of efforts by local authorities and the introduction of a Scottish Government grant.
Private water supplies were also affected by the dry weather in 2018 and local authorities reported that the owners of some 500 supplies contacted them for emergency assistance when their supplies ran dry.
Private water supplies are those owned and managed by individuals rather than Scottish Water and approximately 3.6% of the Scottish population receive their water from those spources. The supplies range from those serving a single house to much larger numbers of houses as well as hotels, tourist accommodation and other businesses.
Many of the very small supplies have little or no treatment and where water from these supplies does not meet the standards, there may be a risk to the health of those drinking from them. According to the latest report, a significant number do not meet the required drinking water standards and need to make improvements.
Sources: Scottish Government and DWQR, 18 September 2019
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published statistics providing detail of household waste collected across all Scottish local authorities during 2018. The statistics indicate some positive findings including:
- A 15% decrease in the carbon impact of Scottish waste from 2011 to 2018.
- A 2% decrease in the total household waste generated in Scotland.
- A 7% decrease in household waste sent to landfill, increasing the rate of recycled household waste for the second year running.
- An increase in plastic and glass recycling. Plastic recycling rose by 5% in 2018, continuing the trend of increasing each year for the last seven years. Glass remains the second most recycled material, with a 0.8% increase recorded.
Despite this, paper and cardboard recycling has continued on its downward trend since 2011, with a 7% reduction being recorded from 2017, which makes a total reduction of 13% from 2011 figures.
The total household recycling rate was 44.7% which was a slight decrease from the 45.5% achieved in 2016.
Source: SEPA, 17 September 2019
Every year since 2011, World Environmental Health Day has been celebrated on 26 September.
This year’s theme, ‘Climate change challenges, time for global Environmental Health to act in unison’ calls on environmental health practitioners throughout the world to help play a role in adaptation strategies and measures to protect communities against the challenges of climate variability.
More information on World Environment Day 2019 can be found on the International Federation of Environmental Health website.
Following a previously reported consultation, the Scottish Government has published its five year programme for climate change adaptation, which sets out policies, proposals and research to prepare Scotland's communities, businesses and natural environment for the challenges that will be faced as the climate continues to change in the decades ahead.
There are seven outcomes in the programme, each split into sub-outcomes which act as building blocks:
- Outcome 1: Our communities are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe in response to the changing climate.
- Outcome 2: The people in Scotland who are most vulnerable to climate change are able to adapt and climate justice is embedded in climate change adaptation policy.
- Outcome 3: Our inclusive and sustainable economy is flexible, adaptable and responsive to the changing climate.
- Outcome 4: Our society’s supporting systems are resilient to climate change.
- Outcome 5: Our natural environment is valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and has increased resilience to climate change.
- Outcome 6: Our coastal and marine environment is valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and has increased resilience to climate change.
- Outcome 7: Our international networks are adaptable to climate change.
Source: Scottish Government, 23 September 2019
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published a review on the potential risks and other unintended consequences of bio-based food contact materials (BBFCMs).
BBFCMs are made from biological, renewable resources and are used for packaging food products. They are a popular alternative to fossil fuel-based materials because they come from sustainable sources and are generally biodegradable or compostable.
The report, which was commissioned by the FSA and produced by Fera Science Ltd, found that BBFCMs can exhibit properties similar to traditional oil-based plastics, enabling comparable shelf-life performance and consumer protection. It also suggested that current risk assessment processes for establishing contaminant chemical transfer from packaging to food would be appropriate for BBFCMs.
However, the report found that in many areas limited research has been undertaken into BBFCMs and that there is little information available on these new materials, such as, the potential risk of allergens present in these bio-based materials transferring to food.
The report suggested that additional studies may be required to help contribute towards our understanding of FCMs, ensuring future food safety and consumer protection.
Source: FSA, 19 September 2019
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is carrying out a public consultation on its pilot assessments of the risks posed to humans by residues of multiple pesticides in food.
Interested parties have until 15 November 2019 to submit comments on two assessments: one considers chronic effects on the thyroid system and the other looks at acute effects on the nervous system.
The draft assessments are the culmination of a multi-year collaboration between EFSA and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment for the Netherlands (RIVM).
The overall draft conclusion for both assessments is that consumer risk from dietary cumulative exposure is below the threshold that triggers regulatory action for all the population groups covered.
The substances considered in the assessments were identified by EFSA’s pesticide experts using a methodology specially devised for classifying pesticides into cumulative assessment groups (CAGs). The methodology rests on the assumption that pesticides causing the same specific effects can produce cumulative toxicity.
The EU regulation on maximum levels of pesticides in food (MRLs) stipulates that decisions on MRLs should take into account cumulative effects of pesticides as and when the methods to assess such effects become available. In addition, the regulation covering the placing of pesticides on the market stipulates that pesticides should have no harmful effects, including cumulative effects, on humans.
For further information, see the FAQ’s on the EFSA website.
Source: EFSA, 17 September 2019
The EU has achieved its goals to phase out ozone-depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol.
The new European Environment Agency (EEA) annual report on ozone-depleting substances shows that the consumption of ozone-depleting substances in the EU in 2018 remained negative (-1,505 tonnes), which means that more of these substances were destroyed or exported than produced or imported.
The EU’s consumption of these substances has been negative every year since 2010 with the exception of 2012.
The results reflect the implementation of the EU's 'ODS Regulation' (EC) No 1005/2009, which goes further than the Montreal Protocol, in combination with high destruction rates and decreasing stocks.
Source: EEA, 16 September 2019