Coordinated action by governments and industry is urgently needed to reduce the growing risks to human health and the environment posed by the unsustainable management of chemicals worldwide, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
These risks are compounded by the steady shift in the production, use and disposal of chemical products from developed countries to emerging and developing economies, where safeguards and regulations are often weaker, says the report.
UNEP’s Global Chemicals Outlook, released today, highlights the major economic burden caused by chemical hazards, particularly in developing countries.
The report reveals that the estimated costs of poisonings from pesticides in sub-Saharan Africa now exceeds the total annual overseas development aid given to the region for basic health services, excluding HIV/AIDS.
Between 2005 and 2020, the accumulated cost of illness and injury linked to pesticides in small scale farming in sub-Saharan Africa could reach USD $90 billion.
Sound chemicals management can reduce these financial and health burdens, while improving livelihoods, supporting ecosystems, reducing pollution and developing green technology, says the study.
The release of the report – the first comprehensive assessment of its kind – follows renewed commitments by countries at the Rio+20 summit in June to prevent the illegal dumping of toxic wastes, develop safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals in products, and increase the recycling of waste, among other measures.