Clay’s Handbook of Environmental Health, 21st Edition just published

Stephen Battersby, editor of Clay’s (2017), writes:


One of the difficulties with editing a text book is that by the time it is published events, or new research may have overtaken what was written. Every five years or thereabouts a new edition of Clay’s Handbook of Environmental Health is published and the 21st Edition has just been published by Routledge.  Material for the book was submitted last October and it was not anticipated that by publication date the UK would have voted to leave the EU. The work covers all facets of environmental health and the basic knowledge that an environmental health practitioner would be expected to have and naturally reflects decisions made at the EU level but in any event it also reflects international thinking on environmental health issues.  While it might seem that the EU might be of no more than academic interest now, it may still have direct relevance depending on the negotiated terms of exit and the length of time such negotiations take.

Environmental health is not just about the law – it is too easy to become seen as merely and enforcer. As was clear at last week’s launch at the House of Commons, too often elected members think of EH in simplistic terms, such as it is a regulatory service, (or it is about housing conditions, or food safety, possibly pollution control or maybe health and safety). This might be managerially convenient (and possible cheaper when it comes to employing staff) but does not provide for better protection of public health.

As editor I have tried to encourage authors to bear in mind the shelf-life for the book. That is why they were asked to avoid being led by current legislation wherever that is possible. From the local authority perspective the law should be seen as a tool rather than dictate action.  We also know legislation including secondary legislation can change quickly and can lag behind knowledge of problems. Indeed legal standards can reflect the minimum that can be agreed and not the best for public health. So I asked contributors dealing with specific aspects to say why certain parameters exist and what the health issues are, rather than list specific standards.

Environmental health officers or practitioners, whichever term one prefers, is about being alert to risks to health and providing the warnings and practical solutions. Additionally there is and always has been an element of education to environmental health (communication skills are addressed in the book). Interventions to improve environmental quality so as to improve public health are “goods’ in their own right whether or not supported by legislation.  Clay’s endeavours to provide the foundations for an EHP and to give sufficient information to allow the reader to make informed decisions and provide the information to others at the policy level.

A work such as Clay’s is a first point of reference and with over 40 contributors provides a source of information not only to students and others at whatever stage of their career (including a specific chapter on research and getting published). Every chapter includes not only useful references, but lists of sources of further information to help colleagues. It is as comprehensive as a works such as this can be, although inevitably someone will be able to spot gaps, but hopefully these are small.

As a work it highlights the breadth of environmental health and the areas of interest beyond the technical with which environmental health practitioners should have some familiarity. There are also two major themes that run through the book namely climate change and health inequity and how EHPs can contribute to addressing these issues.

For more information including the e-book options see   and


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