UN calls for more controls on chemicals

15th October 2012


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  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
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IEMA

Coordinated action by governments and industry is needed urgently to reduce the growing risks to human health and the environment posed by the unsustainable management of chemicals, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Its latest Global chemicals outlook warns that risks are being exacerbated by the shift in the creation, use and disposal of chemical products from developed countries to emerging economies, where safeguards and regulations are often weaker.

“The gains that chemicals can provide must not come at the expense of human health and the environment,” said UNEP executive director, Achim Steiner. “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, wellbeing or worker productivity.

“Reducing hazards and improving chemicals management – at all stages of the supply chain – is an essential component of the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and inclusive green economy.”

The UNEP predicts that global chemical sales will increase by around 3% a year until 2050, and warns that synthetic chemicals are fast becoming the largest constituents of waste streams and pollution around the world, thereby increasing the exposure of humans and habitats to chemical hazards.

The key environmental concerns from the growing use of chemicals include pesticide and fertilizer contamination of rivers and lakes, heavy metal pollution associated with cement and textile production, and dioxin contamination from mining.

Run-off from fertilizers and pesticides is contributing to a growing number of oxygen-poor “dead zones” in coastal waters, says UNEP, which reported earlier this year that only 13 of the world’s 169 coastal dead zones were recovering.

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