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Environmental Research Digest – September 2012

Summary

UN Environment Program analyzed the major economic and humanitarian damage arising worldwide from poor chemicals management. The report highlights the failure of businesses and governments to adequately address the threats presented by hazardous chemicals and urges them to work closer together to develop more effective chemicals policies and promote best practices.

Key findings

  • Poisoning from industrial and agricultural chemicals is contributing to over one million deaths a year and global economic losses of hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
  • Between 2005 and 2020, the accumulated cost of illness and injury linked to pesticides in small-scale farming in sub-Saharan Africa could reach $90bn.
  • Three-quarters of eWaste produced in the EU each year is unaccounted for poor management of volatile organic compounds is responsible for global economic losses worth nearly $240bn.
  • In Sudan there is a three-fold elevated risk of mortality for pregnant women farming in areas where pesticides are used.
  • In Ecuador bathing and drinking water used near an oil extraction site was found to contain levels of petroleum hydrocarbons up to 288 times higher than European Community standards.
  • Poisoning from industrial and agricultural chemicals is among the top five leading causes of death worldwide, contributing to over one million deaths a year.
  • The report calls for businesses and governments to work closer together to develop more effective chemicals policies and promote best practices, arguing that with only a fraction of the 140,000 chemicals estimated to be available on the global market having been subject to detailed independent evaluation it is businesses that have the most information on chemicals and their risks.
  • It also calls for a shift in policy making in favour of preventing risks and identifying safer alternative substances, rather than addressing hazards once they occur.
  • And it warns that businesses will have to adapt to increasingly stringent chemicals regulations as more and more countries, including developing economies, introduce demanding new rules and inspection regimes.

Author(s)

United Nations Environment Programme

Source

PDF report