I was dumbfounded to read about a road in Iceland whose construction has been held up.
Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the tip of the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer.
They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church.
The project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental and the cultural impact - including the impact on elves - of the road project. The group has regularly brought hundreds of people out to block the bulldozers.
And it's not the first time issues about 'Huldufolk', Icelandic for 'hidden folk', have affected planning decisions. They occur so often that the road and coastal administration has come up with a stock media response for elf inquiries, which states in part that 'issues have been settled by delaying the construction project at a certain point while the elves living there have supposedly moved on'.
Scandinavian folklore is full of elves, trolls and other mythological characters. Most people in Norway, Denmark and Sweden haven't taken them seriously since the 19th century, but elves are no joke to many in Iceland, which has a population of 320,000.
A survey conducted by the University of Iceland in 2007 found that some 62 per cent of the 1,000 respondents thought it was at least possible that elves exist.
There's more at the link, including several pictures of the landscapes concerned - which are rather beautiful, I must admit.
Oh, well . . . I guess we can call this a Public Health issue - pronounced in Cockney style, of course, as "Public 'Elf"!