Geneva, 2 October 2015 – Over 800 delegates, including ministers, CEOs, heads of intergovernmental organizations and leaders of civil society, meeting at the 4th International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4), committed today to step up action to safeguard people and the environment from the risk posed by inadequately managed chemicals.
Of the estimated 100,000+ chemicals on the market today, only a fraction has been thoroughly evaluated to determine their effects on human health and the environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that exposure to chemicals contributes to over 1 million deaths annually.
The infant death rate from environmental causes overall is 12 times higher in developing than in developed countries while childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year.
ICCM4 concluded with a commitment to invest in efforts to prevent these deaths and illnesses by assuring sound chemicals management throughout their life cycle by 2020.
Achieving that goal would be a milestone toward realizing the historic 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted by 193 countries last week, and containing goals on human health and well-being, food security, sustainable consumption and production, and water and sanitation – all issues directly affected by chemicals.
Addressing delegates at the conference, Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), stressed the challenges and opportunities of sound chemicals management, and the growing need for innovative partnerships and better information and knowledge.
Mr. Steiner said: “Chemicals are a part of our lives that we cannot do without. That’s precisely why we need to fundamentally rethink how chemicals are developed and managed for industrial and commercial applications. Seeking out ad hoc alternatives to toxic chemicals is a Sisyphean effort. To tackle the challenge of green or sustainable chemistry at its root, we will need a shift in mindset and education so that the chemistry of tomorrow is sustainable from the start.”
Dr. Richard Lesiyampe, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Kenya, and President of ICCM4 said:“Projections show an increase in chemical production and use worldwide, with developing countries expected to produce and use by 2020 around 31 per cent and 33 per cent of global chemicals respectively.
"In building a chemical-safe future, we will address some of the most pressing issues that emerge as part of the sustainable development challenge including the need for increased capacity to address, prevent and manage aftermaths of chemical incidences. Strong capacity for governance, knowledge and information-sharing, and risk reduction will also be needed,”
Representatives of the global chemical business at the conference included the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), which has led the “Responsible Care Global Charter”, promoting responsible management of chemicals throughout their lifecycle. UNEP and ICCA agreed to strengthen their partnership for a chemical-safe future.
Mr. Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council and ICCA Council Secretary said: “ICCA is committed to advancing SAICM implementation and promoting the sustainable and effective management of chemicals globally. Through our strengthened partnership, ICCA and UNEP will continue to work together to develop guidance for countries around the world so they can enhance and improve their chemical management systems.”
Well-represented at the conference, civil society has an indispensable role to play in achieving a chemical-safe world by gathering and sharing information, building capacity and empowering those who work with, or are affected by, chemicals every day.
Dr.Olga Speranskaya, International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) Co-Chair said: “Goodwill alone will not minimize adverse effects on the people most impacted by chemical exposure – women, children, workers, impoverished communities. Increased financial resources and a sense of urgency are needed if we are going to make progress - curb cancer and other diseases linked to unsound chemical management practices. We call on everyone involved – governments, international agencies, industry, and civil society – to make chemical safety a priority."
The conference concentrated on five priority policy issues requiring urgent action to protect human health and lives - lead in paint, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, chemicals in products, nanotechnology, and hazardous substances in the lifecycle of electronics and electrical products - and went further, by adding environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants this week.
In addition, discussions on highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) which pose particular risks to children and have caused health problems and fatalities in many parts of the world led to a decision to promote ecological alternatives and strengthen national legislation regarding the use of HHPs.
ICCM4 closed by adopting a global plan of action for sound management of chemicals by 2020, which proposes concrete interventions, promotes implementation of existing legal instruments and addresses emerging policy issues.
NOTES TO EDITORS
ICCM is the governing body of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). SAICM - to which UNEP provides the Secretariat - is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. It is unique for bringing together multiple sectors and stakeholders to address chemicals and waste issues that are not already within the scope of legally binding agreements.
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/
For more information, please contact:
Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, Regional Office for Europe, UNEP Geneva, +41 22 917 8404 or firstname.lastname@example.org;
Lisa-maria.Hadeed@unep.org +41 79 372 1346
Photo courtesy of IISD