Nairobi, 21 September 2012 - The third International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3), on Friday extended until 2015 a Trust Fund that has to-date provided over US$31 million to improve the management of potentially hazardous chemicals in 105 countries, providing a welcome boost to efforts to safeguard human health and the environment.
Delegates at the conference also recognized the need to better understand and communicate the risks posed by endocrine disrupting chemicals - compounds which disrupt the systems that produce and secrete hormones in humans and wildlife - and marked them as an emerging issue in the Strategic Approach to Chemicals Management (SAICM).
As the sustainable management of chemicals becomes an issue of growing global concern, over 500 delegates and experts from 124 countries, international organizations, governments, non-governmental organizations and the chemicals industry gathered in Nairobi for the five-day meeting under the auspices of SAICM.
One of the key tools of SAICM, adopted in 2006, was the Quick Start Programme (QSP), which has been has been supporting initial enabling activities for the sound management of chemicals in developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing states and countries with economies in transition.
The QSP Trust Fund, which supplied most of the funding for the programme, was set to expire this year, but delegates voted to extend its life until 2015. This will allow more developing nations to submit requests for assistance in soundly managing chemicals until long-term funding is secured.
The programme has supported 146 projects in 105 countries, most of which are least-developed countries and small island developing states. It has mobilized a total of US$40.8 million, including contributions to the Trust Fund and in-kind contributions from project implementers and executing agencies.
"The world is increasingly utilizing synthetically-made chemical products, from fertilizers and petrochemicals to electronics and plastics, to bring economic development, cure illness and enhance livelihoods," said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. "However, as UNEP's Global Chemicals Outlook report recently highlighted, the risks posed by the unsustainable management of chemicals are being compounded by the shift in the production, use and disposal of chemical products to developing economies, where safeguards and regulations can be weaker."
"Financial arrangements to support these countries in their efforts to grow the necessary capacities to soundly manage chemicals are essential to keep on track to meet the 2020 goal, so I am delighted that the Quick Start Programme Trust Fund has been extended," he added.
The conference considered the importance of long-term financing for the sound management of chemicals and wastes.
The draft proposal aims to support efforts to secure sustainable, predictable, adequate and accessible financing for the implementation of obligations under chemicals-related multilateral environmental agreements, and the implementation of voluntary commitments under international policy frameworks such as SAICM.
The conference also agreed to "build awareness and promote actions on endocrine disrupting chemicals by improving the availability of and access to information on chemicals that are proven or suspect of having endocrine disruptive potential".
An endocrine disruptor is a chemical substance that affects the endocrine (hormonal) system and may therefore interfere with important developmental processes in humans and wildlife.
A 2002 study found that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that some wildlife species have suffered disruption from these chemicals, and a growing body of work since then has found emerging evidence of adverse effects on humans - including links to infertility and cancers, as well as impaired thyroid and brain function.
Almost 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormone receptors, hormone synthesis or hormone conversion.
There were also many calls to take action on highly hazardous pesticides, which industry experts and campaigners said were often deployed inappropriately by end users. According to the Global Chemicals Outlook report, the accumulated cost of illness and injury linked to pesticides in small-scale farming in sub-Saharan Africa could reach US$90 billion between 2005 and 2020.
The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) - to which UNEP provides the Secretariat - is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. SAICM has as its overall objective the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment. This "2020 goal" was adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 as part of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
Objectives are grouped under five themes: risk reduction; knowledge and information; governance; capacity-building and technical cooperation; and illegal international traffic. For more information, visit http://www.saicm.org/
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