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1.6 million deaths could be prevented annually through the sound management of chemicals and waste

To mark World Health Day on 7th April, read the BRS Secretariat’s Press Release calling for greater action to prevent illness and death from unsound management of chemicals and waste.

1.6 million deaths could be prevented annually through the sound management of chemicals and waste

1.6 million deaths could be prevented annually through the sound management of chemicals and waste

Geneva, 5 April 2019 – Recently, the World Health Organization estimated the ‘disease burden’ preventable through sound management and reduction of chemicals in the environment at around 1.6 million lives per year.1 As the international community marks World Health Day, three UN conventions whose aim is the sound management of chemicals and waste are stressing the need for urgent and greater actions from governments to reduce the number of illnesses and death from hazardous chemicals and wastes.

Causes of death attributable to unsound management of chemicals and wastes include cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congenital anomalies, chronic kidney disease, poisonings, and self-harm.2

One of the pathways taken by hazardous chemicals into the human body is through our food and liquid intake. Persistent Organic Pollutants (or POPs) are highly toxic chemicals known to be carcinogenic, which accumulate in the fatty tissue of mammals, birds and fish. POPs become more concentrated in higher reaches of the food chain, culminating in humans, potentially leading to serious health effects including certain cancers birth defects dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to diseases, and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. Toxic chemicals present in the air also impact our health if we inhale them.

The Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions work to protect people from these harmful impacts in a multitude of ways. With 187, 161, and 182 parties respectively, the three conventions are nearly universal and are legally-binding, covering the life-cycle of hazardous chemicals and wastes, protecting human health and the environment at every stage. This starts with the reduction and elimination of toxic chemicals, includes the minimisation and environmentally sound management of wastes such as electronic waste, mercury waste, plastic waste and more, as well as the creation of innovative public-private partnerships to tackle household waste, mobile phones, and computing equipment.

For example, the Basel Convention – which in March 2019 marked 30 years since adoption and which is primarily concerned with providing the legal framework for controlling transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and other wastes – has developed globally-agreed technical guidelines on how to manage different waste streams in an environmentally sound manner, including the prevention of impacts on human health from lead acid batteries, healthcare and medical waste, and electronic waste, to name just three.

The Rotterdam Convention features transparent trade regulation measures and an obligatory information-sharing system to enable and ensure informed decision-making from governments regarding the refusal, or import and proper use, of more than 50 hazardous industrial chemicals and agricultural pesticides already listed under the Convention. This has led to lowered health risks to people handling such substances, especially including vulnerable groups such as the rural poor, and women and children.

Meanwhile Parties to the Stockholm Convention have listed 28 of the world’s most toxic substances, leading to measurable lowered human exposure as a result of these chemicals’ reduction or elimination, as demonstrated through the Convention’s Global Monitoring Plan which found lowered levels globally in polychlorinated diphenyls (PCBs), DDT and dioxins and furans.3

At the same time, the need for urgent action to achieve the sound management of chemicals and wastes was a key concern at the recent Fourth UN Environment Assembly, where a Resolution4 was adopted on this subject calling on governments and all other relevant stakeholders to take note of progress achieved by the chemicals and waste conventions and to encourage all stakeholders to seek the establishment of permanent programs of information directed to consumers and the public in general, on the risks generated by chemicals and raise awareness of the responsibilities related to their management.

Further decisions which will help prevent illness and reduce preventable deaths will be taken at the next Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, in Geneva from 29 April to 10 May 2019, the theme for which is “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”. Draft decisions to be discussed include the listing under the Stockholm Convention of the fluorinated chemical Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), widely used as a water and oil repellent and found to contaminate drinking water supplies in many communities and Dicofol, a highly toxic organochlorine pesticide used to control mites on many crops and known to be harmful to humans and the environment; the listing of seven additional chemicals under the Rotterdam Convention; and a new Basel Convention partnership on plastic waste and amendments to better incorporate plastic waste into the existing control mechanisms of the Convention.

Notes for Editors:

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 Parties. With an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, its scope covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous” based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash. See www.basel.int

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, is jointly administered by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment (UNEP). The 161 Parties to this legally-binding Convention share responsibility and cooperate to safely manage chemicals in international trade. To date 50 chemicals and pesticides are listed in its Annex III. The Convention does not introduce bans but facilitates the exchange of information among Parties on hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and their potential risks, to inform and improve national decision making. In addition, through the PIC Procedure, it provides a legally-binding mechanism to support national decisions on the import of selected chemicals and pesticides in order to minimize the risk they pose to human health and the environment.See www.pic.int

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Convention requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 182 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. To date, 28 chemicals of global concern have been listed under the Stockholm Convention.

For BRS conventions general media enquiries see: www.brsmeas.org or contact:

Charlie AVIS,
Public Information Officer (UN Environment), Geneva
+41-79-730-4495

 

 


1 World Health Organization, 201, The public health impact of chemicals: knowns and unknowns: data addendum for 2016. www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/279001

2 Ibid.

3 See Stockholm Convention factsheets available at: chm.pops.int/?tabid=5559

4 UNEP, 2019, Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste, Resolution UNEP/EA.4/L.9 - Available at: https://papersmart.unon.org/resolution/uploads/k1900787.pdf

 

Bring your own bottle to reduce the footprint of the 2019 Triple COPs – for a Clean Planet, Healthy People!

To reduce plastic waste at the meetings of the conferences of the Parties, arrangements have been made with the venue and catering service to minimize the use of plastic take-out containers, sandwich bags, cutlery and cups. Delegates are therefore invited to bring reusable drinking containers (mugs, bottles) for use at the cafeteria and water fountains located throughout the venue. There will be no disposable plastic cups at the COPs!

Bring your own bottle to reduce the footprint of the 2019 Triple COPs – for a Clean Planet, Healthy People!

Bring your own bottle to reduce the footprint of the 2019 Triple COPs – for a Clean Planet, Healthy People!
 
Preventing Marine Litter: technical workshop in Barcelona pushes for environmentally sound management of plastic wastes

Experts converge on the Stockholm Regional Centre for the Mediterranean in Barcelona 3 to 6 April, to share and develop best practices on ESM of plastic waste, with thanks to Sweden for funding support.

Preventing Marine Litter: technical workshop in Barcelona pushes for environmentally sound management of plastic wastes

Preventing Marine Litter: technical workshop in Barcelona pushes for environmentally sound management of plastic wastes
 
Regional meetings in Brno and Montevideo continue Triple COPs preparations

With thanks to Norway and Switzerland for funding support, BRS regional preparatory meetings continue this week in Brno, Czech Republic and in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Regional meetings in Brno and Montevideo continue Triple COPs preparations

Regional meetings in Brno and Montevideo continue Triple COPs preparations
 
Regional preparations for Triple COPs continue with African meeting in Nairobi, Kenya

With thanks to Norway and Switzerland for funding support, African countries come together in Nairobi, 18 to 20 March, to prepare for the 2019 Triple COPs.

Regional preparations for Triple COPs continue with African meeting in Nairobi, Kenya

Regional preparations for Triple COPs continue with African meeting in Nairobi, Kenya
 
Read the Invisible News, which is proving popular at UNEA-4

Aiming to make the invisible, visible, this special 8-issue newspaper is brought to you by the BRS Secretariat, Minamata Convention, SAICM, and UN Environment (Chemicals & Waste) Branch.

Read the Invisible News, which is proving popular at UNEA-4

Read the Invisible News, which is proving popular at UNEA-4
 
Women disproportionately vulnerable to health risks from chemical and waste pollution

To mark International Women’s Day, read our new Press Release on why women and girls are more likely than men to suffer adverse effects from chemicals and waste.

Women disproportionately vulnerable to health risks from chemical and waste pollution

Women disproportionately vulnerable to health risks from chemical and waste pollution

8 March 2019 - Due to a combination of socio-economic, cultural, and physiological factors, women and girls are disproportionately vulnerable to the harmful impact of pollution from chemicals and waste. At the same time, in many countries, women are increasingly assuming leadership roles in raising awareness, and protecting their communities, from these impacts.

The adverse effects of hazardous chemicals and wastes on different groups of the population vary depending on the level of exposure, behavioural patterns, age, biological effect (for example, endocrine disruption), geographical location, nutritional status and co-exposure to other chemicals. Certain types of chemicals, such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), can build up to dangerous levels in humans causing adverse reproductive, developmental, immunological, hormonal, and carcinogenic effects with varied impacts on vulnerable groups of the population.

Women are often more exposed to chemicals and waste as a result of different socio-economic roles, defined along gender lines. According to a study in Indonesia, and indeed in many countries, women are still expected to perform the bulk of domestic work in and around the house, including the sorting, removal, and disposal of household waste, which in many cases include open burning of plastics and other household waste. This practice exposes women to highly toxic persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals with significant impacts on their health and as potential child bearers. Recent body burden analysis has shown that such chemicals do get passed out to children during pregnancy.1

In farming, more than 40% of agricultural work in developing countries is done by women and girls. Because women are twice as likely to be illiterate2 as men, vital chemical and safety information is often overlooked, increasing the likelihood of mis-handling and consequent unintended exposure to pesticides.

Cultural norms also impact on women and girls’ vulnerabilities. Of the estimated 13,000 chemicals3 used in beauty and hygiene products only about 10% have been evaluated for safety. A recent study concluded that women of colour, independent of socio-economic status, are most exposed to higher levels of such chemicals4 as a result of using products such as skin-whiteners and hair products, which often contain toxic substances, including heavy metals such as mercury and lead.

Such socio-economic and cultural factors are compounded by physiological differences between women and men, since their smaller size and role in the reproductive cycle, women are proportionately more heavily impacted than men even when exposure is the same. Up to 33% of a woman’s chemical burden can be passed on to her baby during gestation, through the placenta, as well as via breastfeeding.5 Women are often not even aware of the health risks they are facing, especially given that some of these chemicals can remain in the body for long periods and manifest themselves later in time.

On the other hand, there has been progress. Women are increasingly stepping forward to take on leadership roles to protect the most vulnerable segments of our population from the potentially harmful effects of certain chemicals and wastes. Both the Gender Heroes publication and the Gender Pioneers initiative under the BRS Conventions point to examples of the empowerment of women in marginalised communities and the impacts that their actions have had, for example, in the promotion of ecological agriculture, in the reduction of use of highly hazardous pesticides, in the protection of children from the toxics found in toys, and in the safer recovery and management of recyclable elements of e-waste from landfill sites. For more information on the BRS Gender Heroes and Gender Pioneers see: http://www.brsmeas.org/?tabid=4759

These examples emphasise the need for enhanced gender considerations and sound management of chemicals and wastes in the broader push for implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Indeed the relationship between chemicals and wastes and gender, under SDG 5, requires constant emphasis, attention, and mainstreaming. This will be further explored during the next Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, in Geneva from 29 April to 10 May 2019, the theme for which is “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”.

Notes for Editors:

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 Parties. With an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, its scope covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous” based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash. See www.basel.int

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, is jointly administered by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment (UNEP). The 161 Parties to this legally-binding Convention share responsibility and cooperate to safely manage chemicals in international trade. To date 50 chemicals and pesticides are listed in its Annex III. The Convention does not introduce bans but facilitates the exchange of information among Parties on hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and their potential risks, to inform and improve national decision making. In addition, through the PIC Procedure, it provides a legally-binding mechanism to support national decisions on the import of selected chemicals and pesticides in order to minimize the risk they pose to human health and the environment. See www.pic.int

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Convention requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 182 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. To date, 28 chemicals of global concern have been listed under the Stockholm Convention.

For more on gender aspects of chemicals and waste, see http://www.brsmeas.org/?tabid=3651 or contact Susan WINGFIELD, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), Geneva: +41-79-233-3218, +41-22-917-78406, susan.wingfield@brsmeas.org

For BRS conventions general media enquiries see www.brsmeas.org or contact Charlie AVIS, Public Information Officer (UN Environment), Geneva +41-79-730-4495

 


1 From the BRS Scoping Study on Gender in Indonesia, full report here: http://www.brsmeas.org/?tabid=5816

2 Both statistics from FAO data summarised in the infographic at: http://www.fao.org/resources/infographics/infographics-details/en/c/180754/

3 Zota & Shamasunder, 2017, The environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from beauty products as a health disparities concern, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Vol 127(4):418 online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28822238

4 Ibid

5 UNDP, 2017, Gender Mainstreaming - a Key Driver of Development in Environment & Energy. Available online: http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/Environment%20and%20Energy/Sustainable%20Energy/Gender_Mainstreaming_Training_Manual_2007.pdf

BRS Secretariat contributes to UNEA-4 in promoting sound management of chemicals and wastes

The Secretariat is participating in more than 10 events, has submitted numerous background documents, and stages 2 exhibitions throughout the 4th UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, 11 to 15 Marc.h

BRS Secretariat contributes to UNEA-4 in promoting sound management of chemicals and wastes

BRS Secretariat contributes to UNEA-4 in promoting sound management of chemicals and wastes
 
Clean Planet, Healthy People: All pre-session working documents now online

All working documents for the 2019 COPs, and most information documents, are now available online.

Clean Planet, Healthy People: All pre-session working documents now online

Clean Planet, Healthy People: All pre-session working documents now online
 
Scientists predict collapse of wildlife populations due to pollution from chemicals and waste

With people everywhere marking World Wildlife Day on 3 March, read the new BRS Press Release on the impact of chemicals and waste on our planet’s fauna.

Scientists predict collapse of wildlife populations due to pollution from chemicals and waste

Scientists predict collapse of wildlife populations due to pollution from chemicals and waste
 
China updates its national plan for implementing the Stockholm Convention

To help beat pollution, China has transmitted an updated NIP, addressing amendments from COP-4, COP-5, & COP-6.

China updates its national plan for implementing the Stockholm Convention

China updates its national plan for implementing the Stockholm Convention
 
The latest BRS Newsletter is now online: all the news for a Clean Planet, Healthy People

A must-read for all those interested in, or working towards, the sound management of chemicals and waste.

The latest BRS Newsletter is now online: all the news for a Clean Planet, Healthy People

The latest BRS Newsletter is now online: all the news for a Clean Planet, Healthy People
 
UN agencies in Geneva join forces to reduce, re-use, recycle & refuse

BRS Secretariat, UN Environment and the UN Office at Geneva urge international Geneva to minimize single-use plastics.

UN agencies in Geneva join forces to reduce, re-use, recycle & refuse

UN agencies in Geneva join forces to reduce, re-use, recycle & refuse
 
Liberia transmits updated national plan for implementing the Stockholm Convention

To help beat pollution, Liberia has transmitted an updated NIP, which addresses amendments made by COP-4, COP-5 and COP-8.

Liberia transmits updated national plan for implementing the Stockholm Convention

Liberia transmits updated national plan for implementing the Stockholm Convention
 
As preparation for the 2019 Triple COPs, the outcomes of the Joint Bureaux meeting are now online

The report of the joint meeting of the COPs bureaux, held in Geneva from 15 to 16 November 2018, is now available online.

As preparation for the 2019 Triple COPs, the outcomes of the Joint Bureaux meeting are now online

As preparation for the 2019 Triple COPs, the outcomes of the Joint Bureaux meeting are now online
 
Plastic waste again in the spotlight as Geneva hosts High Level Dialogue on 14 February

BRS Secretariat joins forces with Geneva Environment Network and the governments of France, Gabon & Norway to further explore options for tackling marine litter.

Plastic waste again in the spotlight as Geneva hosts High Level Dialogue on 14 February

Plastic waste again in the spotlight as Geneva hosts High Level Dialogue on 14 February
 
BRS Secretariat marks International Day of Women & Girls in Science

Meet the BRS Science & Technical Assistance Branch, which has female staff from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, & Latin America, all working for a Clean Planet & Healthy People.

BRS Secretariat marks International Day of Women & Girls in Science

BRS Secretariat marks International Day of Women & Girls in Science
 
The 2019 Triple COPs are coming!

Read the new BRS Blog to find out how the COPs will contribute to a clean planet and healthy people.

The 2019 Triple COPs are coming!

The 2019 Triple COPs are coming!
 
First batch of pre-session documents, including budget documents for consideration by the COPs, now online

Pre-session documents for the 2019 COPs, including the proposed programmes of work and budgets for the conventions for 2020-2021, are now available.

First batch of pre-session documents, including budget documents for consideration by the COPs, now online

First batch of pre-session documents, including budget documents for consideration by the COPs, now online
 
EU transmits updated plan to help beat pollution from toxic chemicals

To rid the world of POPs, the EU has transmitted a new plan for implementing the Stockholm Convention.

EU transmits updated plan to help beat pollution from toxic chemicals

EU transmits updated plan to help beat pollution from toxic chemicals
 
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