It is to be hoped that the source of the recent outbreak of Legionnaires' disease is soon identified and no further cases result in either serious illness or death ("Cup parade fans struck down by Legionnaires' disease", The Herald, June 7).

However, such threats to public health raise major and wider questions about how the UK can deal with similar threats effectively, now and in the future. Westminster is already driving "deregulatory" policies and new initiatives that are seriously affecting public health.

These policies cover not only crude attempts to remove regulations but also moves to soften regulation, weaken regulatory practice, cut resources, reduce active inspections and increasingly rely only on re-active inspections. Active inspections incidentally provide valuable advice and support to many small and medium enterprises in preventing public health problems.

Reports on the current Edinburgh Legionnaires' outbreak refer to important investigative work being done by local authority environmental health officers and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Yet due to UK policies, the HSE has suffered massive cuts of about one-third of its total budget in the last few years.

In 1982 the HSE Employment Medical Service was an internationally respected source of occupational health knowledge with 60 occupational health doctors and 62 nurses. With the retirement of the Chief Medical Advisor last month, HSE is now down to 2.2 doctors covering the UK, just one of whom is full-time.

Such advisors, along with HSE technical services, must have an important part to play in the work of environmental and related wider environmental control and prevention of diseases such as Legionnaires'. Even more important may be the cuts that environmental health officers (EHOs) have experienced in recent years, due to an economic crisis created in large part, lest we forget, by financial deregulation over the last 20 years.

In Scotland, a Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland survey earlier this year found that between March 2009 and 2011 there had been a 9% fall in EHO numbers, down from 556 to 506.

Doubtless some senior managers in HSE and local authority departments will argue that the cuts and related de facto "deregulation" in their organisations do not affect their capacity to protect public health in the future.

Such arguments appear quite fanciful, lack evidence and are simply not supported by staff working in the field who have to bear the brunt of the cuts and find their efforts to safeguard public health under increasing threat.

Professor Andrew Watterson,

Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, University of Stirling.

I'm surprised we still have cooling towers in this century. Surely recycled hot water should be cooled by passing through heat exchangers with the resultant power generated being put to good use.

Peter Jensen,

Tigh an Abhainn, Skipness,