French MPs back environment/health agency

Government wins unanimous approval for new authority on environmental health risks

The French government looks set to create a new environmental health agency after its plans were unanimously approved yesterday by the lower parliamentary house, the Assemblée Nationale. The agency (AFSSE) will provide independent expert advice to public authorities, coordinating the work of three existing authorities.

In a statement welcoming the vote, the environment ministry yesterday said that the new agency would provide information on the health effects of a range of environmental problems, including fine particulates, dioxins, nitrates, genetically-modified organisms, radon, and glycol ethers. The agency will be jointly supervised by the environment and health ministries

The government launched plans to create an environmental health agency last summer after receiving a report analysing environment-related health issues. Its initiative mirrors growing political pressure around Europe for new approaches, driven by high profile scandals such as BSE, dioxin contamination of animal feed, and chemical contamination of soft drinks.

In its statement, the environment ministry stressed that the creation of the AFSSE would be used by the government to push forward EU discussions on environmental health during its presidency of the Council of Ministers beginning in July. In particular, it said, this meant taking concrete steps to integrate the precautionary principle into all EU decision-making.

Follow Up:
French environment ministry, tel: +33 1 42 19 10 56; see also the draft proposal.

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