Millions of death could be avoided with better chemical management, says UN report

Thursday, September 06, 2012
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Geneva: According to a new report launched by the United Nations Environment Progamme (UNEP) and partners, millions of deaths could be avoided around the world with better management of chemicals.

The report, entitled 'The Global Chemicals Outlook', argues that a shift in the production, use and disposal of chemical products from developed to developing countries has made it essential to establish better management policies to avoid diseases and pollution caused by weak regulations.

"We are living in a world of chemicals", UNEP's Sylvie Lemmet told journalists in Geneva at the launch of the report. Based on the chemicals registered under the European Union Registration Evaluation Authorization and Restriction of the Use of Chemicals Substances, she said the number of chemicals existing in the global environment is estimated at about 143,000.

Lemmert noted that the "chemical intensification" is spreading into our daily lives, through the global use of personal care products, lubricants, adhesives, paints, electronics, and even childrens' toys, with heavy side effects on health and on the environment.

The high global level of persistent organic pollutants (POPS) found in some pesticides, for example, is not only responsible for the near-extinction of some animal species around the world, but is also entering the food chain and impacting on human health, according to UNEP.

The unsound management of chemicals also bears a high economic cost, particularly in developing countries. Lemmet cited the example of sub-Saharan Africa, where the estimated cost of poisoning from pesticides, resulting in injury and loss of working-time, was over six billion US dollars in 2009. "This", she said, "is higher than the total ODA that is going to the health sector in the same area."  

The Global Chemicals Outlook report, the first of its kind, urges coordinated action by governments and industry to reduce the growing health and environmental hazards from chemicals. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the partner bodies in the production of the report, as many as 4.9 million deaths could be avoided annually with better management of chemicals.

The study also finds that sound management of chemicals can deliver major economic benefits and support the green economy. -UNifeed
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