The failure to implement and enforce environmental health law: The

The failure to implement and
enforce environmental health
law: The contribution of local
government to attributable
L. Erasmus
NWU – Potchefstroom
[email protected]
Conference on Local Government Law
• Leading cause of death in children – infectious intestinal disease
(water pollution)
• WHO – 7 million people worldwide died from air pollution
• Water pollution + air pollution = environmental factors
• 28% of all deaths, that is children and adults, are attributable to
avoidable environmental risk factors
• Environmental factors poses serious health concerns
Environmental health
• Encompasses those aspects of human health, including quality of life
that is determined by physical, chemical, biological, social and
psychosocial factors in the environment. It also refers to the theory
and practice of assessing, correcting, controlling and preventing those
factors in the environment that can potentially affect, adversely, the
health of present and future generations (National Environmental
Health Policy 2013)
• Health – a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being,
not merely the absence of disease (WHO, NEHP)
Legal Mandate
• Constitution
• Structures Act
• National Health Act
• National Environmental Health Policy
• Draft National Norms and Standards relating to Environmental Health
• Health Professions Act – Regulations defining the scope of the
profession of environmental health
• Everyone has a right to an environment that is not harmful to their
health or well-being (section 24)
• The state (including local government) must respect, protect,
promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights (section 7(2))
• Objectives of local government - promote a safe and healthy
environment (section 152)
• Executive authority, and has the right to administer municipal health
services (section 156, Part B of Schedule 4)
Municipal health services
• Defined as a set of environmental health services (section 1 National
Health Act)
water quality monitoring
food control
waste management
health surveillance of premises
surveillance and prevention of communicable diseases
vector control
environmental pollution control
disposal of the dead
chemical safety
Local Government: Municipal Structures Act
• Division of functions and powers (section 84)
• Municipal Heath services – function of district municipalities
• District municipalities – section 78 (Municipal Systems Act) investigation to
determine capacity to render service
• Local municipality may be authorised to render municipal health services,
through a service level agreement (section 84(3))
National Health Act
• Every metro and district municipality must ensure that appropriate
municipal health services are effectively and equitably provided in
their respective areas (section 23(1))
National Environmental Health Policy
• To provide a framework for the effective implementation of
environmental health services
• MOH - we as a country "cannot be successful in achieving a long and
healthy life for all South Africans, unless environmental health
services receive the attention it deserves".
• Municipal Health Plans must form part of the Municipal Integrated
Development Plans
• Municipalities should compile an Annual Environmental Health Status
• National Norms and Standards Relating to Environmental Health
Other laws
National Environmental Management Act
NEM: Air Quality Act
NEM: Waste Act
National Water Act
Water Services Act
Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act
Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural remedies and Stock Remedies Act
Cemeteries and Crematoria Act
Hazardous Substances Act
Tobacco Products Control Act
Nuclear Energy Act
Occupational Health and Safety Act
National Road Traffic Act
Environmental Health Practitioners
• Municipal health services are rendered by EHP’s.
• Appointed by mayor - metro and district municipalities.
• Have to be registered before they may practice as health officers (section 2
Health Professions Act)
• Regulations defining the scope of the profession
• identifies specific acts that have to be performed
• Vague, conflicting… although still rather comprehensive
• Power of peace officer (sections 80, 83 National Health Act)
• Investigate section 24 Constitution matters, and conditions that constitute, or, is
likely to constitute situations which endangers the health or well-being of individuals
or communities
• Power of arrest, issue of notice to appear in court, etc. (section 40, 56 Criminal
Procedure Act)
Draft Norms and Standards relating to
Environmental Health
• Benchmark of quality against which delivery of environmental health
services can be monitored
• Norm = a desired status
• Standard = mandatory legal requirement
• Non-compliance with standard, exercise power as peace officer (possibly
eliminating need for by-laws)
• NEHP – “although the policy emphasizes the need for environmental
strategies to strike an appropriate balance between promotion, education
and law enforcement, where voluntary compliance is unattainable,
enforcement and prosecution should be a viable option for securing
environmental health improvements”
Environmental Health Diseases
• Impossible to list all diseases
• Water pollution - cause cholera, typhoid fever, etc…
• Air pollution – cause bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and emphysema,
etc… TB, Silicosis
• Disease from vectors – Malaria…
• Food poisoning
• Pesticides exposure
• Lead, mercury
• Dumping sites, medical waste - several possible diseases
• Primary health care – delivered through a decentralised district health
system (local government responsibility) (section 30, 31 National
Health Act)
• Failure to implement environmental health services, end up becoming
the very same municipalities problem, ie health care..
• Environmental health focus on prevention, rather than cure… cheaper
and more effective in the long run.
Criminal liability
• Hinder EHP from performing duty (misuse/abuse) = offence (section
89(1)(a) National Health Act)
• Offences – Air Quality Act, Waste Act, etc…
• Section 28 NEMA, section 19 NWA - “Every person who causes, has
caused or may cause significant pollution or degradation of the
environment must take reasonable measures to prevent such
pollution or degradation from occurring, continuing or recurring, or,
in so far as such harm to the environment is authorised by law or
cannot reasonably be avoided or stopped, to minimise and rectify
such pollution or degradation of the environment.”
• Why implement and enforce environmental health law – the
environment can be deadly!
• Thank you..

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