Health and Chemicals

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Some chemicals have been recognised or are suspected to cause serious health hazards. Advances in environmental health research including environmental and human sampling and measuring techniques, and better information about the potential of low dose human health effects have helped to underscore emerging concerns.

Several notable international agreements on chemicals exist. These were prompted by the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment declaration in 1972 (Stockholm) on the discharge of toxic substances into the environment; These agreements include the 1989 Basel Convention to control/prevent trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes, the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the 1998 Rotterdam Convention on informed consent and shipment of hazardous substances, and the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

More recently, the UNEP developped a Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The SAICM, adopted in Dubai 2006 by the International Conference for Chemicals Management at its first session, is a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder policy framework aimed at promoting the sound management of chemicals and hazardous waste in the context of sustainable development. At its second session, in 2009, the International Conference on Chemicals Management requested the development of a strategy for strengthening the engagement of the health sector in the implementation of the Strategic Approach, in consultation with WHO. Special attention is required to protect those in society that are particularly vulnerable to risks from hazardous chemicals, children, and workers. 

Read more: Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM)

WMA current policy and action

Since 2009, the WMA has been engaged in the development of the strategy for strengthening the engagement of the health sector in SAICM.

At its General Assembly in Vancouver in October 2010, the WMA adopted a Statement on Environmental Degradation and Sound Management of Chemicals.

On the 19th of September 2012, WMA together with the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), the government of Slovenia and the WHO organised a side-event "SAICM health - A prescription for multi-sectoral engagement" to look at the adoption of a specific strategy related to the strengthening of the health sector role in sound management of chemicals. This event took place in the context of the third session of the International Conference on Chemicals Manegement (ICCM3) taking place in Nairobi on 17-21 Sept. 2012. Some recent innovations in multi-stakeholder engagement promising a healthy outcome for all were presented. More details in the programme.

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