Afsset's activity developed significantly in 2007, due in particular to its new prerogatives in the occupational health field. It should be remembered that Afsset has been responsible for assessing occupational exposure mechanisms and risks in the framework of the French Occupational Health Plan (PST) since the end of 2005. A number of projects were completed in 2007, including decisive expert appraisals in response to solicited requests (mineral man-made fibres, formaldehyde, glycol ethers, legionnaire's disease and nuclear power plants, etc.) and the appointment of six Committees of Specialised Experts, one of which is working on setting occupational exposure limits (OELs) and is due to announce its initial conclusions in 2008.
At European level, the Regulation REACH, in which Afsset is closely involved, came into force in 2007. The principle of REACH is as follows: require companies that produce or import chemical substances to provide evidence of their safety as regards health or to document the control of existing risks. As one of the most ambitious regulations ever set up, this will go a long way in providing greater protection to the public, workers and the environment from intentionally produced chemical substances.
In this context, Afsset has taken the initiative to completely reorganise its internal setup so as to ensure the performance of its new missions. This has especially involved the creation of a Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Assesment (DESET) and a Biocides-Reach , European Chemical Policy Department (ARCHE), entrusted with conducting cross-disciplinary environmental and occupational health expert appraisals and overseeing the implementation of European regulations respectively. The DESET currently gathers some forty leading specialists and is due to welcome a further ten or so new scientists annually through the remaining two years of the Occupational Health Plan ARCHE comprises around twenty leading scientists and should also expand at the same rate.
In anticipation of this reorganisation, Afsset signed its first Objective and Resources Contract with its funding ministries on 16 April 2007. This contract lays down Afsset's main strategic policies for the 2008-2011 period and gives a shared view of its powers. It particularly reasserts the role as network leader that is Afsset's mission to carry out with the competent French bodies as regards assessment, expertise, research and environmental and occupational health prevention.
Five years after its creation ex nihilo, Afsset's central position within the French health system is now established, as attested by the increased volume of framework agreement signatures in 2007, with the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS), the French Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) and the Robert Sauvé Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Research (IRSST) in Montreal (Canada) joining our network, as well as the amount of research and expert appraisals requested of this network. Afsset devoted 45% of its budget to it in 2007. The number of websites and the distribution of information and expert appraisals to various sections of the public thus confirm its role in informing the public and participating in public debate.
In 2007, Afsset became actively involved in organising and monitoring a competent, independent and traceable collective expert appraisal procedure based on a voluntary quality standard forming a key element of this network's activities. Afsset is delighted with its partners' commitment to act and would like to continue this cooperative focus in 2008 with a view to increasing the multidisciplinarity, reactiveness and ability to adapt of its network of partners to be better prepared for facing future health challenges.
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