To achieve a Toxic Free Future we advocate the four main principles of chemicals’ policy reform to be applied in all chemical management activities:

1. The right to know, helps to ensure that information about chemicals is available in a convenient form to all relevant stakeholders. This should include information about a chemical’s effects on human health and the environment, its intrinsic properties, its potential uses, protective measures and relevant regulations. Information on pollutant releases and transfers should also be freely available. (The SAICM includes the right to know in its objectives on knowledge and information)

2. The principle, no data, no market, requires manufacturers or importers of all potentially toxic chemical substances to ensure that necessary information on the substances’ hazard characteristics and safe use are available and are transmitted down the supply chain with the goal of reducing risks associated with chemical exposure and chemical accidents to workers, consumers, and the environment. (This principle has been incorporated into European Union chemicals legislation.)

3. The precautionary principle was agreed by governments in 1992 in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and  states: “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” The SAICM elaborates this principle by indicating that it should be applied in support of health protection as well as environmental protection when the aim is to ensure that chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects.

4. The substitution principle requires or encourages a less hazardous alternative to be used in place of a hazardous substance when this does not entail unreasonable cost or inconvenience. (This is encouraged by European Union legislation and elsewhere and it is required by law in Norway.

By addressing chemical management in the framework of the four main principles, stakeholders are able to help promote environmentally and socially sound chemicals management, as well as helping ensure that:

  • the responsibility for chemical information and safety sits at top of the supply chain;
  • stakeholders are able to access information from industry, government and international bodies, eg,OECD, HPV, SIDS;
  • there is a reduction in the regulatory burden for developing and transitional countries as they don’t have to manage or monitor toxic and or persistent chemicals;
  • civil society avoids the costs of destruction and remediation of unwanted stockpiles;
  • clean technology is facilitated and promoted; and
  • the most problematic chemicals are removed from circulation.

There are also other important internationally recognized principles whose effective implementation would contribute to chemical safety such as those contained in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, especially those principles (13, 14, 16) which address liability and compensation, toxic transfers, and polluter pays.

Read more about the principles and how they apply to toxic chemicals NTN OECD Paper

Learn more about the Precautionary Principle in Australia in NTN’s ‘Precautionary Principle Gets Real’

Learn more about right to know in Australia ‘Rights and Wrongs of Knowing in Chemical Conflict’