- Category: Politics
12 Sep 2012
- Published on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 03:27
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Both governments and industries worldwide have to act immediately to slash the growing risks posed to the environment and human health by poor management of chemicals, a new report by the United Nations Environment Program suggested.
The Global Chemicals Outlook identified that these risks as growing due to rising production, utilization and disposal of these products in developing nations, where there are often “weak safeguards and regulations.”
There are over 143,000 chemicals being produced globally but only a fraction of these have been assessed to determine their probable effects on human health and the environment.
Key environmental issues due to these chemicals are pesticide and fertilizer contamination of water bodies such as rivers and lakes, heavy metal pollution which is linked to cement and textile production, and dioxin contamination from mining.
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While western developed countries remain to be the largest producer of chemicals, developing and emerging countries like China, India, Africa and Russia are catching up fast.
This is mainly because these regions have become heavily dependent on volatile substances for purposes such as agriculture, electronics and mining, among others.
In sub-Saharan Africa, estimated costs of poisonings from pesticides had surpassed the total annual overseas development grant for basic health and services.
Between 2005 and 2020, the accumulated cost of illness and injury in the country associated with agricultural chemicals could reach $90 billion.
“Sound chemicals management can reduce these financial and health burdens, while improving livelihoods, supporting ecosystems, reducing pollution and developing green technology,” the study pointed out.
U.N. under-secretary general and U.N.E.P. executive director Achim Steiner recognized that these communities depend on help from chemicals for economic development to improving livelihoods. However, he said that “gains that chemicals can provide must not come at the expense of human health and the environment.”
“Pollution and disease related to the unsustainable use, production and disposal of chemicals can, in fact, hinder progress towards key development targets by affecting water supplies, food security, well-being or worker productivity," Mr. Steiner added.
Many countries have made efforts to implement legal frameworks and other safety measures pertaining to chemical hazards reduction, but the report said “more” is needed at all stages of chemicals supply chain to assure sound management of chemicals in the industry.
"To harness the economic benefits of sound chemicals management, closer cooperation and better planning is required between government ministries, public and private sectors, and others in the chemicals supply chain," noted Mr. Steiner.
Unsustainable management of chemicals accounts for global economic losses, amounting to $236.3 billion.
Global chemical sales will increase by about three percent by 2050, with Africa and Middle East to be greatly affected.
“A transition towards sustainable production, use and disposal of chemicals can yield significant economic benefits in terms of development, poverty reduction and reduced risks to human health and the environment,” stated in the Global Chemicals Outlook. – C. Dominguez