Northumbria University welcomed over 120 delegates from over 25 countries to SEGH2014. The meeting attracted delegates from across Europe, but also further afield from the USA, Mexico, Canada, Pakistan, Vietnam, Namibia and Nigeria, to hear the 51 papers and 40 posters presented. Human impacts on our atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere were discussed over the five days, with the linkages between human health and the environment a central focus.
In the opening session on ‘Air & Dust Pollution and Human Health’, Professor Frank Kelly (King’s College London), gave a timely and considered overview of the PM (particulate matter) burden to which populations are exposed and recent developments in evidence of how PM2.5 elicit health effects in humans. The subsequent session speakers considered how we detect, assess, model and practically tackle air pollution.
The session on ‘Environmental Iodine and the Deficiency Disorders’ generated a lively and stimulating set of papers and posters covering our current environmental knowledge and health perceptions, and highlighted ‘myths, misunderstandings and deficiencies’ along with further research needs.
As part of a special session on ‘Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and health’ we heard a thought-provoking set of interlinked talks given by Professor Mike Stephenson (British Geological Survey), Professor Fred Worrall (Durham University), and Mr Robie Kamanyire (Public Health England). Current concerns raised in the media about the process of hydraulic fracturing were examined and discussed along with the potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction.
The central themes of risk, exposure assessment, bioavailability and bioaccessibility were explored over two days of sessions. Keynotes were given by Dr Frank Swartjes (National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Netherlands) and Professor Steven Sicilliano (University of Saskatchewan, Canada). These talks, along with many of the session presenters, explored how the chemical and physical properties of soil influence the movement of pollutants from the environment into our bodies. Arsenic and Pb provided the main focus for a number of speakers, but Cd, Cu, Mg, Hg, V, along with Benzo[a]pyrene and a range of other PHEs, were also considered.
The Conference Dinner, a Northumbrian-themed evening with local food and local music, took place in the Great Hall at Jesmond Dene House, and was attended by over 60 delegates. Photographs, taken by Ms Rosina Leonard, Geological Survey of Namibia, are available on line at Click here to view SEGH 2014
Thank you Rosina!
Finally, at the end of the week a few hardy (although they didn't realise this at the time!) delegates joined Mr Phil Hartley (Newcastle City Council) and Ms Lesley Dunlop (Northumbria University) to explore of the North-East’s industrial history and cultural heritage. However, after an amazing week of unusually good British ‘summer’ weather (yes sunshine and no rain on every day prior to the fieldtrip) our luck ran out.
Hadrian’s Wall at Cawfields. A stretch of Hadrian's Wall on a steep slope, with turrets and an impressive milecastle, probably built by the Second Legion.
But we donned hard hats, wellington boots and head torches to venture into Killhope lead mine. The mine owners hope everyone has now warmed up and dried out again!
Killhope Lead Mine, Cowshill, Co. Durham
So just a final thank you to all who participated in SEGH 2014, and to the many new society members. Northumbria University looks forward to welcoming you to Newcastle again – but in the meantime we hope to see many of you in Bratislava in June 2015. See www.segh.net for details.
by Jane Entwistle
(SEGH Chair 2014)