|About UNEP||UNEP Offices||News Centre||Publications||Events||Awards||Milestones||UNEP Store|
|Table of contents
Preface Annex 1
Africa needs to address the threat that existing and increasing chemical use will have on human and environmental health. As the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) noted:
Developing a more effective chemical management system requires addressing the specific challenges Africa faces in management. There is already an extensive global system for chemical management, and it is important not to duplicate efforts but to create synergies and better systems for implementation. Africa faces challenges related to the availability of information and the communication of this to users, inadequate capacity to effectively monitor the use of chemicals, lack of access to cleaner production systems and technologies for waste management, as well as poor capacity to deal with poisoning and contamination. The management of obsolete chemicals, stockpiles and waste presents serious threats to human well-being and the environment in many parts of Africa.
As chemical use and production increases Africa’s chemical management institutions, which already have limited resources and capacity, will be further constrained and overburdened and will not cope. Measures and systems need to be developed to reduce exposure to negative impacts and to reduce human vulnerability.
MANAGEMENT OF OBSOLETE PESTICIDES
Contaminated sites and obsoletes stocks present serious problems for Africa and require immediate actions. Estimates suggest that across Africa at least 50 000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides have accumulated (NEPAD 2003). Box 6 describes the extent of the problem in Tanzania. These hazardous pesticides are contaminating soil, water, air, and food sources. They pose serious health threats to rural as well as urban populations and contribute to land and water degradation.
Poor people often suffer a disproportionate burden. In poor communities these dangers are compounded by a range of factors including unsafe water supplies, poor working conditions, illiteracy, and lack of political empowerment (ASP 2003). Poor communities often live in closer proximity to obsolete pesticide stocks than wealthy people. Children may face heightened exposure and where they do are at higher risk than adults. The WHO estimates that pesticides may cause 20 000 unintentional deaths per year and that nearly three million people may suffer specific and non-specific acute and chronic effects, mostly in developing countries (ASP 2003). The risk faced by poor communities is exacerbated by inadequate access to healthcare systems; this is particularly the case for farming communities.
As in other fields of environmental management, partnerships that bring together a range of actors including the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governmental organizations can be an effective way of addressing problems. The Africa Stockpiles Programme (ASP) is a global programme supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Prominent partners include the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), WWF – the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The objective of ASP is to clean up and safely dispose of all obsolete pesticide stocks in Africa and to establish preventive measures to avoid future accumulation so as to protect human and environmental health. Box 7 gives an example of one global initiative that supports Africa’s efforts to reduce its chemical stockpiles.
POPs AND PCBs
Although the use of POPs is regulated under international law, specifically in the Stockholm Convention, some are exempt from its provisions. In Africa these include DDT and Chlordane. The reasons for these exemptions are multifold, with both cost of alternatives and effectiveness being important considerations. In some cases, such as for DDT and chlordane, the objective is to give the exempted countries the opportunity to find suitable alternatives that are consistent with their social and economic situation before completing phase-out. The lack of public knowledge about possible alternatives is undoubtedly a factor in their continued use.
Poly-chlorinated biphenyls are mainly used in the manufacture of electrical equipment for electrical insulation. They are used in transformers and capacitors. These are persistent chemicals that do not break down easily and therefore their control and management is a serious challenge for Africa. Management requires undertaking complete inventories, preventing further releases into the environment, managing the stocks and contaminated sites and finally disposal. These challenges are enormous especially if considered within the context of the socioeconomic context of African countries.
Controlling emissions of dioxins and furans also presents a formidable challenge to African countries because of the potential impact on human health and environment. Technical and operational modifications to the industry and related attitude changes are required.