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PROGRAMM 7: HUMAN HEALTH AND WELFARE

138. In his introductory statement, the Assistant Executive Director recalled the establishment in 1979 of the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) as a joint venture by ILO, WHO and UNEP. He explained that the major thrust of this programme was a concerted United Nations effort to assess the risks of chemicals to human health and the environment, an well as to strengthen national capabilities In the field of chemical safety. Under a new Memorandum of Understanding among the three participating organizations, the objectives of the Programme had been given a sharper focus by agreement to joint studies on methods of testing chemicals, evaluating the effects of chemicals on non-human biota and on how IPCS work could better serve developing countries. On the control of vector-borne disease, he recalled that the Panel of Experts on Environmental Management for Vector Control (PEEN) had been established in 1980 by WHO, FAO and UNEP. The time had now come for that Panel to move from experimentation to practical application. Governments and donor agencies should be encouraged to increase collaboration in many related fields by adopting clear-cut policies with specific objectives and responsibilities regarding health and water resource development projects. 1 ...139. A number of representatives welcomed the proposed activities of this programme. One representative reported that his counrty's work with UMBP to carry out projects had so far been very satisfactory and he expressed interest and readiness to continue this co-operation. Several representatives expressed concern at the reduced budget allocation for this programme, a few of them stressing its Importance relative to other areas, some of which were being accorded higher priority. One representative stressed the need to pay special attention to the working environment within the informal industrial sector, particularly in developing countries. Another representative, however, disagreed and noted the reduced allocation with approval. Some representatives singled out the relationship between this programme and the problems of energy consumption, one warning particularly against the potential hazardous effects on human health arising from poor transportation systems. Commending efforts to discover new sources of energy, he also pointed out that human health should be the ultimate objective of development rather than the price of progress. Another representative suggested that human health should be the general title of the whole UNEP programme, as attainment of adequate human health and welfare was what UNEP's work was all about.

140. Another representative, commenting on the role of UNEP's regional offices, requested that separate reports be submitted to the Governing Council showing how each had contributed to the implementation of the programme.

141. The observer for WHO informed the committee that although work on health was highlighted in this programme, health concerns and health inputs from his organization were included in a much broader spectrum of Environment Programme activities ranging from those that dealt with atmosphere and water to many involving environmental assessment and environmental management.

7.1 Hazards of pollution

142. Many representatives welcomed the work continuing under IPCS, and one stressed its positive contribution to chemical safety through the provision of guidance for the safe handling and management of chemical pollutants. The same representative noted the usefulness of IPCS information for prior informed consent and pledged his country's continuing support for the Programme.

143. Another representative, while recognizing the excellent results achieved so far under IPCS, observed that the programme had yet to extend its work to many other fields, among them the widespread use of agricultural chemicals in developing countries.

144. Another representative also praised the work of IPCS and underlined the importance of broad continued support for the Programme. He described Some of the work being done with assistance from his country, such asthe evaluation of the effects of industrial chemicals on health. Three important results had been the international chemical safety cards, the WHO pesticide data sheets and guidelines for drinking water quality. Another activity was the development of ways to test for long-term toxicity and the evaluation of food additives and pesticide residues. He added that the importance of work on the toxicity of chemicals had increased. Yet another representative, noting the emphasis laid on subprogramme 7.1, stressed the need for Governments to commit themselves fully to examining the effectiveness of the tools available to them for dealing with the effects of pollution in their own territories.145. One representative expressed satisfaction that the problem of assessing chemical hazards, which needed special expertise, would be addressed during the coming biennium.

146. The observer for WHO explained that his organization collaborated with UNEP in the work of IPCS. The Programme was already well established having operated for the past 10 years. With IRPTC assistance, it had now produced evaluations of well over 100 chemicals. Results of these evaluations had been made available not only through the environmental health criteria documents, but also in other forms and were increasingly used in decision-making both by Governments and by industry. The evaluation results were also used by Governments to set exposure limits for chemicals in air, water and food. Other IPCS activities dealt with training. emergency assistance and other ways of helping countries cope with chemical safety problems. The Programme depended heavily on the scientific support it received from member States, as well as on other resources.

147. In his concluding remarks, the Deputy Assistant Executive Director appealed to States to assist IPCS, particularly in its training activities, either by hosting training courses or by helping participants from developing countries to attend courses elsewhere.

7.2 Environmental aspects of communicable diseases

148. Several representatives expressed their support for work projected under subprogramme 7.2. One noted that such issues as the provision of clean water and proper sanitation could play an important role in preventing the spread of communicable diseases. Proper housing was also a key element. Another representantive, addressing the importance of tropical disease control in developing countries, spoke of the threat his country faced from the vectors of environmentally related diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis. He noted the achievements of PEEN since its establishment. Guidelines and other tools for environmental management for vector control produced by PEEN had been extremely useful for implementation of environmental management programmes and the promotion of intersectoral collaboration for vector control in water resource development projects. He noted that the environmental and climatic conditions in his country were ideal for implementation of P M Is field activities. The need for such work had been underlined by the recent increase in malaria in the highlands. Further, he noted that while this phenomenon could not necessarily be attributed to a rise in temperature or to any other climatic or demographic change, it could be argued that in the long term, the greenhouse effect, which the Committee had addressed at length, might well lead to changes in water levels, coastline, etc., some of which could affect the mosquito vector ecology. It was therefore time to start reviewing climatic changes attributed to the greenhouse effect, to define the possible impacts on vector ecology, and to suggest ways of monitoring the situation more effectively. Consequently, he welcomed the proposed efforts by both WHO and UNEP to look at the possible greenhouse effect on vector-borne disease distribution.

149. Turning to the proposed second activity under the subprogramme providing assistance to developing countries to help them improve their environmental management of mycotoxins - one representantive referred to his country's past successful collaboration with UNEP in that area.

150. The observer for WHO, addressing the issue of vector control, recalled that in his introductory statement, the Assistant Executive Director had referred to PEE14. He said that PEEN had raised the question of the impact that the greenhouse effect might have on the distribution of vector-borne diseases and, in this connection, reminded the Committee of WHO's plans to undertake a review of the effects of climate change on health. He invited UNEP to contribute to and support this work.

151. Responding to issues raised during the discussion of this subprogramme, the Assistant Executive Director said that he shared the view that everything UNEP did impinged on human health and welfare. On vector control, he said that PEEN had indeed begun to move from generalities towards addressing the actual conditions found in developing countries. He drew attention to the frequent financial constraints that hindered the application of PEEM expertise and experience and he appealed to donor countries to support PEEM through UNEP's clearing-house mechanism.