African Nations Step Up Management of Harmful Chemicals

Representative of 28 African nations developed a draft roadmap aimed at driving the continent toward meeting the 2020 goal of the sound management of chemicals, including hazardous wastes, across their lifecycles.

The challenge facing Africa is particularly urgent given that UNEP’s Global Chemicals Outlook report projects a drastic increase in chemical use, production and disposal in developing nations in the coming years, on top of significant increases over recent decades.

management of chemicals_unep

Photo: UNEP

Toxic and hazardous chemicals can have serious health, environmental and economic impacts – and their sound management aims to prevent (or at least reduce or minimize) the potential for exposure of people and the environment to toxic and hazardous chemicals as well as chemicals suspected of having such properties. For example, according to a UNEP report, “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”.

National legal and institutional arrangements for chemical management and public resources for ensuring the sound management of chemicals are often insufficient, particularly in Africa. Sounds management of chemicals includes prevention, reduction, remediation, minimization and elimination of risks during the life cycle (production, storage, transport, use and disposal) of chemicals and chemicals in products and articles.

Roadmap on accelerating the integration of sound management of chemicals into national development planning

“The roadmap will assist African countries to accelerate the integration of sound management of chemicals into national development planning, a key component chemicals and waste financing as agreed by UNEPs Governing Council earlier this year,” said Tim Kasten, Head of UNEP’s Chemicals Branch.

Zambia, Burkina Faso and Uganda presented newly developed national draft roadmaps for their countries on raising the awareness of the need for sound management and the development of the enabling legal frameworks.

The roadmap targets action in eight areas identified in a declaration launched in April 2012 by the Swedish Minister of Environment, Lena Ek, namely:

  • Awareness raising;
  • Access to information;
  • Health aspects;
  • Substitution;
  • Resource efficiency;
  • Chemicals in the development agenda;
  • Capacity building;
  • International Environmental Governance.

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), adopted in 2006, recognizes that developing country progress towards the goal “to ensure that, by the year 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse effects on the environment and human health” requires an integrated lifecycle chemical management strategy.

Risks of inaction on safe management of chemicals in Africa

UNEP’s 2013 Costs of Inaction report reveals high economic costs deriving from health, environmental and development impacts associated with improper chemicals management.

For example, the report pointed to a 2011 World Health Organization study showing that 4.9 million deaths and 86 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years could be attributed to environmental exposure and management of selected chemicals.

A conservative future risk scenario analysis suggested that accumulated health costs in sub-Saharan Africa will increase to approximately $97 billion by 2020, assuming the current inadequate capacities for the sound management of pesticides at the national and local levels remain constant.

In 2010, the UNEP Finance Initiative (FI) and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) reported that in 2008 the global environmental costs due to volatile organic compounds, which can come from a variety of sectors and sources, including transport and coal combustion?came to $236.3 billion, while mercury emissions cost $22 billion.

Source: UNEP 

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