International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN)
- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
UN Conference on Sustainable Development
Rio+20 June 2012
Thank you for the opportunity to provide input and comment to the UNCSD
Secretariat?s preparation of the zero draft for the outcome document for
adoption by governments at Rio+20.
The International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) was formed in response
to the global recognition of the need to eliminate persistent organic pollutants.
Since its inception in 1998, IPEN has grown to a global network of over 700
public interest non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from more than 100
countries united in support of the common goal of a ?toxics-free future.? IPEN
facilitates the engagement of public interest NGOs in efforts to eliminate
POPs and other persistent toxic substances (PTS), and works for a world
where exposure to chemicals is no longer a significant source of harm to
public health and the environment. IPEN has emerged as a broad-based
international chemical safety network with a global reach. It has the ability to
translate chemical policy into concrete action on the ground and provides
developing country NGOs with a voice at international forums.
This submission was prepared on behalf of IPEN (the
International POPs Elimination Network) and its Participating Organizations by:
Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith PhD (Law)
Senior Advisor, IPEN
Senior Advisor, National Toxics Network Inc.
Skype - mariannls
The chemical industry plays a significant role in the global economy with sales
in 2007 of more than three trillion U.S. dollars.
A steadily increasing share of
the world?s chemical production is shifting to developing and transition
and by 2020 developing countries are expected to lead in highvolume chemicals production.
The United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) has noted rapidly rising import and use of chemicals in developing
countries and estimates that by 2020, they could account for one-third of
Almost all developing countries are increasing their use
of pesticides and industrial chemicals, including substances contained in
consumer and commercial products such as plastics, paints, adhesives, dyes,
metals, and so forth.
To achieve a sustainable future where individuals and societies can truly have
green livelihoods, a sustainable chemical industry is essential. Many
chemicals still on the market are simply unmanageable and industry can no
longer be allowed to outsource its harmful impacts and expect communities to
pay the ?costs?. Achieving a sustainable chemical industry is a significant
challenge for Rio+20. This submission will address this challenge and identify
expectations and desired outcomes of Rio+20.
Expectations for the outcome of Rio+20
Expectation 1 - Taking Stock a Generation On
A prime expectation of Rio+20 is a ?taking stock of progress? against the goals
and objectives of the previous Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and the outcomes of
the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). It has been a
generation since Rio and it is time to both assess progress and reinvigorate
the Rio Principles of intergenerational equity, precaution, right to know,
polluter pays and participation.
In 1992, governments meeting at the Rio Earth Summit acknowledged that
chemical contamination could be a source of ?grave damage to human health,
genetic structures and reproductive outcomes, and the environment.?
subsequent Chapter 19 of Agenda 21 focused on Environmentally Sound
Management of Toxic Chemicals, and in particular, the needs of developing
countries when faced with the chemical hazards of their rapidly industrialising
International Council of Chemical Associations, ICCA Review 2007?2008, 2009, http://www.iccachem.org/ICCADocs/01_icca_review2007_2008.pdf
OECD, OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030, 2008.
OECD, OECD Environmental Outlook for the Chemical Industry, 2001.
Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme, Financing Options for Chemicals
and Wastes (UNEP/GCSS.XI/INF8), December 18, 2009,
Joe Digangi, Civil Society Actions For A Toxics-Free Future, New Solutions, Vol. 21(3) 433-445, 2011
Agenda 21, Chapter 19, Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals, Including
Prevention of Illegal International Traffic in Toxic & Dangerous Products, Section 19.2 Available at
Yet, 20 years on, toxic chemicals contaminate all living things, including
vulnerable populations such as children and indigenous peoples. Since1992,
many more new synthetic chemicals have been manufactured and released
into the environment, with estimates of over 1,500 new chemicals being
introduced each year. Approximately 80,000 are currently in use. The vast
majority of pesticides and industrial chemicals have still not been adequately
tested for their long term health and environmental impacts, particularly in
terms of emerging concerns such as endocrine disruption and the impacts of
mixtures of chemicals, which is how they occur in the environment. The little
information that does exist is often not available to workers and exposed
communities, particularly in developing countries and countries with
economies in transition.
The developing world still faces dirty industries setting up in countries with
limited capacity and compliance, as well as the escalating threats of ever
increasing waste streams and illegal dumping by developed countries. In
particular, the quantity of hazardous electronic waste finding its way to
developing countries is still growing exponentially.
A generation on, our water, soil, air and food chain are contaminated with
toxic persistent chemicals and ?toxic trespass? of our bodies and those of
wildlife continues unabated!
It is essential that Rio+20 reviews its past and takes stock of progress against
Chapter 19 of Agenda 21. It should also assess the lack of progress in
regards to the WSSD 2020 goal and incorporate activities that would address
the systematic failings into its outcomes.
To achieve a sustainable future, Rio+20 will need to develop a program to
eliminate the toxic legacy faced by countries as a result of unsound chemicals
management and provide concrete and measureable deadlines crucial to
ensure focus, credibility and public trust.
4. Specific Elements: a. Objectives of the Conference:
Reinvigorate Rio Principles and WSSD Objectives Pertaining to
Chemicals and Waste
Rio+20 provides an appropriate opportunity to reinvigorate the original Rio
principles and WSSD objectives pertaining to chemicals and waste. Chapter
19- ?Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals?- focused on
the generation, harmonisation and dissemination of chemical data, and
strengthening capacity for chemical management. It contained specific
reference to the right of communities to chemical information and the
obligations on industry and governments to generate and provide that
information. It was acknowledged that it is in the public interest for the
community to be informed, to exercise their right to understand, to make
informed choices and to participate in informed decision-making. Informed
consumers can help drive cleaner production and reduce the generation of
Right-to-know was also supported by the Arhus Convention and the Strategic
Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM), which aimed to
ensure that information about chemicals throughout their life cycle, including
chemicals in products, was available to all stakeholders.
There is a clear
acknowledgement that right-to-know is essential to implement the WSSD
2020 goal; ?to achieve the sound management of chemicals throughout their
life-cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead
to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the
Despite this, two decades after the Rio Earth Summit, the rhetoric of
community right-to-know and access to chemical information still outstrips the
reality. In many countries, information on product ingredients is still withheld
under commercial confidentiality regimes. While some countries have
implemented right-to-know initiatives like the Pollution Release Transfer
Registers, their effectiveness is restricted by the limited number of chemicals
covered and their dependence on industry estimations. Environmentally
sustainable chemical management requires reliable, comprehensive and
accessible information, yet legal and regulatory frameworks still often do not
allow for an open and equal exchange of information among stakeholders.
The application of the Precautionary Principle is crucial to the assessment of
chemicals and new technologies; nevertheless, new and emerging
technologies including bio-engineering and nanotechnology have been
introduced with little or no oversight or assessment. The principles of
substitution and elimination of hazardous substances as envisaged by
SAICM, established to implement the WSSD Plan of Action for chemical
management, are integral to protection of vulnerable populations, like
agricultural workers, indigenous peoples and children.
Rio+20 must reinforce a global commitment to the Rio principles, their
implementation by all governments and to the WSSD 2020 goal. These are
essential to achieving a sustainable future and green livelihoods.
Rio+20 must reaffirm the central role of sustainable development in the
international agenda and revive public trust in sustainable development as a
policy that can finally make a positive breakthrough.
It is necessary to acknowledge that certain industries, which cannot fulfill
these principles, cannot be part of a sustainable future. Clear criteria need to
be developed to encourage sustainable investments into chemical industry
that will help to phase out unsustainable chemical production.
SAICM Overarching Policy Strategy, para 15 (b) (i)
Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), Overarching Policy Strategy,
Commitment to the chemical management objectives to ensure
Two decades after the Rio Earth Summit, babies are born pre-polluted with
hundreds of manmade toxic chemicals present in their small bodies. The
developing foetus is contaminated by chemicals bio-accumulated in the
mother?s body and that readily cross over the placental barrier. Newborns
take more in through breast milk or formula, and as they grow are exposed to
hazardous chemicals through residues in their food, indoor and outdoor air
pollution, and through household products and contaminated house dust.
Many of the synthetic chemicals they are exposed to are persistent and bio-
accumulative, remaining in the human body long after exposure. There are
still no regulatory approaches to assess the combined impacts of the chemical
soup to which children are exposed.
The unique vulnerability of children to hazardous chemicals was recognised
by the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety, the Word Health
Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children?s Fund (UNICEF) and
when they identified a growing number of children?s health impacts
from chemical exposure. These include asthma, birth defects, (eg,
hypospadias), behavioural disorders, learning disabilities, autism, cancer,
dysfunctional immune systems, neurological impairments, and reproductive
The WHO has estimated that three million children under the age
of five die every year due to environmental hazards.
All children, both in the
developing and developed world, are affected by exposure to hazardous
chemicals. In 2004, the European Union?s Ministerial Conference on
Children?s Environmental Health concluded that reducing exposure to
hazardous chemicals could save the lives of many children.
For Rio+20, to achieve real sustainability, the impacts of our chemical
activities, products, and waste on future generations must be addressed in the
Rio+20 outcomes. All governments and intergovernmental organisations will
need to ensure a long term, sustainable, intergenerational commitment to
Lloyd-Smith, Mariann; Sheffield-Brotherton, Bro, 'Children's Environmental Health: Intergenerational
Equity in Action?A Civil Society Perspective.' Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume
1140, Number 1, October 2008, pp. 190-200(11)
IFCS Children and Chemical Safety Working Group. 2005. Chemical Safety and Children?s Health:
Protecting the world?s children from harmful chemical exposures - a global guide to resources, October.
UNEP, UNICEF & WHO. 2002. Children in the New Millennium: Environmental Impact on Health.
Available at www.unep.org, www.unicef.org and www.who.int.
World Health Organization / Children?s Environmental Health. Available at http://www.who.int/ceh/en/
Sound Management of Chemicals to Achieve Sustainable Development
In February 2006, Ministers of over 140 governments endorsed the Strategic
Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) High Level
Declaration, which states:
The sound management of chemicals is essential if we are to
achieve sustainable development, including the eradication of
poverty and disease, the improvement of human health and
the environment and the elevation and maintenance of the
standard of living in countries at all levels of development.
Many developing and transition countries continue to face bourgeoning
industrial growth as industries, many of them hazardous, set up where there
are few regulations and little capacity to control effluent, air pollution and
waste. While there is a global consensus that sound management of
chemicals is an integral part of the sustainable development agenda and that
an inability to manage chemicals can negatively affect development and
poverty reduction initiatives, sound chemicals management has not been
successfully integrated into development assistance. Some of the problems
stem from limited resources, the multitude of other obligations, and the urgent
need to address other global environmental issues such as climate change.
However, another obstacle includes the view that chemicals management is
an environmental issue not a health and development concern. Hence there is
not a strong demand by developing countries to include chemical safety in
development assistance. While donor countries insist on country driven
programs, there remains a disconnect between chemical safety and the
As sound chemical management is essential to achieve the Millennium
Development Goals, Rio+20 outcomes must ensure that chemical safety and
chemical policy reform occupies a place at the core of the economic and
development policy agenda. Rio+20 must recommend that sound chemical
management be taken into account while determining the direction of all
international development assistance.
In order to achieve this, IPEN offers the following model for Rio+20 activities:
In 2007, IPEN collaborated with UNEP Chemical and the SAICM Secretariat
to initiate and coordinate the Global NGO SAICM Outreach Campaign.
purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness about SAICM and to secure
commitments from NGOs in all regions to undertake efforts to elevate the
threats posed by toxic chemicals. The campaign targeted not only
environmental NGOs, but also organisations from other sectors including
United Nations Environment Programme, Strategic Approach to International Chemicals
Management: SAICM texts and resolutions of the International Conference on Chemicals Management,
See Global SAICM Outreach Campaign. Available at http://www.ipen.org/campaign
health, agriculture and labour. As a result of the campaign, more than one
thousand NGOs in over 100
countries endorsed a civil society statement
supporting SAICM and its objectives, committing themselves to contribute to
the SAICM implementation. The campaign spread the message for the need
for chemical management to ensure the protection of human health and the
environment but also human rights and national development.
This model could be utilised as an activity from Rio+20 to assist in achieving
greater awareness of the role of chemical management in sustainable
Sound Management of Chemicals to Ensure the Protection of Human
The protection of the environment is a vital part of contemporary human rights
doctrines. It affects the right to life and the right to health. The International
Court of Justice has found that damage to the environment undermines all
human rights spoken of in the Universal Declaration and other human rights
In 2001, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that ?living in a
pollution-free world is a basic human right?
and those who pollute violate
these rights. It was noted that, ?human rights cannot be secured in a degraded
or polluted environment? and that ?the fundamental right to life is threatened by
exposures to toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, and contaminated drinking
The rise of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes,
degenerative diseases and mental health have all shown to have links to
pollution of air, water and/or food. WHO has assessed almost a quarter of all
disease is caused by environmental exposure, which can be averted.
report, ?Preventing disease through healthy environments - towards an
estimate of the environmental burden of disease,? shows that in one way or
another, the environment significantly affects more than 80% of major
The Convention on the Rights of the Child
recognises the dangers of
and places an onus on all parties to ensure the
Case Concerning the Gabcíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary v Slovakia), 1997 ICJ Rep 7; (25
September; sep op., Judge Weeramantry), 4. ; Also see Per C G Weeramantry J, in his separate
opinion in the International Court of Justice?s decision in Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary v
Slovakia) 1997 ICJ 97 at 110; 37 ILM 162 at 206 (1998).
Press Release, 27 Apr 2001 ?Living In A Pollution-free World A Basic Human Right? Available at
WHO Media Release ?Almost a quarter of all disease caused by environmental exposure? 16 JUNE
2006 | GENEVA Available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr32/en/index.html
Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3
(entered into force 2 September 1990). Australia ratified the CRC on 17 December 1990.
Article 24 2(c) To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health
care, through, iner alia, the application of readily available technology and through the provision of
adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of
healthy development of the child, to the maximum extent possible. To achieve
this, the epigenetic basis of health and disease must also be considered, for
once there is a mutation in a gene, this intergenerational impact cannot easily
be remedied. All children have a right to a healthy, toxic-free environment with
clean air, clean water and food free from chemical residues, as well as safe
and toxic-free toys.
The human rights of indigenous people are also badly affected by chemical
contamination. Under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
indigenous people have the right to practice and revitalise their
cultural practices, customs and institutions; however, the ongoing
contamination of the food chain seriously threatens indigenous peoples? right
and need to consume traditional foods.
In the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) 2001
preamble, Arctic peoples are given special consideration which acknowledges
that the Arctic ecosystems and indigenous communities are particularly at risk
because of the biomagnification of POPs in their traditional foods. The blood
and breast milk of Arctic peoples are contaminated with the full suite of POPs
chemicals and their metabolites. The level of perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), a
carcinogen and immunotoxin, is doubling in the Arctic environment every 5
years. Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS), a newly listed POPs chemical with
no known breakdown, already contaminates every aspect of the Arctic
environment and its inhabitants. Despite this, governments permit the
continuation of this pollution by allowing a wide range of acceptable uses and
exemptions for PFOS.
Rio+20 outcomes must include active support for activities to reduce chemical
contamination to protect basic human rights. They need to facilitate the
phase-out of all ongoing uses and exemptions for POPs, which are
transboundary, intergenerational poisons that cannot be managed.
Rio+20 must provide a clear pathway for global phase-out of particularly
hazardous chemicals, specifically PBTs (persistent bioaccumulative toxins),
vPvBTs, (very persistent, very bioaccumulative toxins), genotoxics,
carcinogens, chemicals affecting the immune and nervous system, and
endocrine disruptors. The SAICM emerging policy issue on endocrine
disruptors needs to be supported.
Recommendations for Rio+20 Specific Chemical Safety Activities
needed to achieve a sustainable future
- Life Cycle Analysis and Polluter Pays -
To achieve a sustainable future, Rio+20 outcomes must support a move away
from the standard risk assessment paradigm to an assessment of the
complete life cycle of a chemical, product or activity. Understanding the
systems of production, distribution, use, and disposal reveals a more
See United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Resolution 61/295, UN Doc
A/61/L.67 (2007) at article 5, 9 and 11
complete view of chemical relationships and where a given chemical may
create threats to human health or the environment.
Through a life cycle approach, the full cost of a product or activity can be
properly assessed, ensuring extended producer responsibility for all aspects
and impacts of the chemical?s life cycle. A polluter pays approach is essential,
as countries can no longer afford to pay the bourgeoning costs of chemical
contamination and hazardous waste management in terms of adverse
environmental health impacts and the economic imposts on the public purse.
Currently, much of the cost of chemical production, use and waste
management has been externalized as costs to governments and society.
These encompass legacy issues such as obsolete stockpiles, contaminated
sites and children whose development has been impaired as a result of pre-
natal and post-natal chemical exposure; others whose health has been injured
as a result of chemical exposure, eg, workers; those providing health care
services to such people; property owners or users whose property value
decreases as a result of chemical contamination; fishers, hunters, small
farmers, and others whose livelihoods are impaired by chemical
contamination; indigenous peoples whose way of life has been undermined
through contamination of their traditional foods; people whose water supply is
contaminated; and others.
Externalities of modern industrial agriculture include depletion of water, soil,
and biodiversity; pollution by pesticides and fertilizers; loss of livelihoods and
knowledge, and the resulting economic and social costs to communities.
These externalities retard economic productivity, harm the environment, and
impose additional burdens on a country?s health delivery and education
While the Polluter Pays Principle and its internalization of costs helps address
these impacts, economic instruments that internalize costs of chemicals
management have not been widely implemented.
Rio+20 outcomes should provide support for cost internalization mechanisms
as an effective method to provide the resources needed to establish
infrastructure and foster investment in safer practices and in the substitution
of less hazardous chemicals and materials. Rio+20 outcomes must support a
cradle-to-cradle approach to product design, giving due consideration to the
chemical components and an acceptance of what is not recyclable, should be
- Substitution and elimination of hazardous substances in consumer
In most countries, the consumption of products containing hazardous
chemicals is increasing, resulting in a growth in emissions from the
Geiser, K., Redesigning Chemicals Policy: A Very Different Approach, NEW SOLUTIONS, Vol. 21(3)
manufacture and use of products as well as a massive growth in the waste
generated. SAICM acknowledged fundamental changes are needed in the
way products are manufactured, consumed and managed in their waste or
Many low quality products are supplied to and also made in developing
countries and economies in transition, including cosmetics, household goods,
paints, toys and other goods for children that are contaminated with a range of
heavy metals and chemicals. In most cases, no information on contents of
hazardous chemicals in products is available to governments or civil society
and there remains inadequate public awareness of health risks associated
with many products.
Lead content in paint is a pertinent example. Lead levels in paint sold in
developing countries are significantly higher than those of developed
countries. Lead is renowned for its toxic effects, particularly on children, and
the removal of lead from paint is an iconic intergenerational and equity issue,
which needs immediate global attention.
While right-to-know about product ingredients will help drive cleaner
production, the onus must remain with manufacturers and governments to
ensure hazardous substances are eliminated from consumer products and
substituted with safer ingredients.
Rio+20 outcomes will need to ensure not only a reduction in product
obsolescence but chemical management reforms based on green product
design, substitution and the elimination of toxic substances. A primary
outcome of Rio+20 outcomes must be a complete phase-out of toxic
substances from all children?s products, including toys, by 2020.
- Addressing the Toxic Ewaste Trade -
Many developing countries already facing their own domestic waste pressures
are experiencing import of hazardous waste, particularly electronic waste,
from other countries, including developed countries. The export of old
computers to ?bridge the digital divide? is still being used as an excuse for toxic
waste dumping on some of the poorest communities and countries in the
world. It is estimated that between 50% and 80% of ewaste collected for
recycling in the developed countries each year is being exported.
Developed countries have not invested in adequate ewaste
recycling/treatment facilities and have not provided adequate legislation,
monitoring and compliance to stop the toxic exports. The lack of adequate
infrastructure in developing countries to manage ewaste safely results in the
burning of ewaste in open air or dumping in sewers, rivers or on the ground,
with global impacts.
The phenomenal growth in ewaste requires that all countries develop sound
capacity to prevent, minimise, re-use or recycle materials from ewaste. Active
support must be given to green product design to design-out toxic
components in electronics, as well as green procurement policies.
To achieve sustainability, Rio+20 outcomes need to support countries and
help build capacity for the prevention, management and recycling of ewaste
Rio+20 should encourage all Governments to ensure prompt ratification and
entry into force of the Basel Ban Amendment by 2016 at the latest to assure
developing countries are not dumping grounds for external toxic waste.
- Hazardous Stockpiles and Destruction Technologies -
Many developing and transition countries have large stockpiles of obsolete
pesticides that pose a serious threat to human health and the environment in
these countries themselves and in neighbouring countries as well. These
legacy stockpiles need an international approach to ensure their destruction
using environmentally sound techniques.
In the last decade, the availability of non-incineration destruction facilities has
been seriously impaired through a lack of institutional support. While these
technologies are still available, the market approach has resulted in the
preference for what appears to be cheaper incineration options. This is
despite emitting air pollutants and producing toxic ash requiring permanent
storage, as well as ongoing public opposition in all continents.
Rio+20 outcomes need to provide support for non-incineration destruction
technologies to urgently address the legacy wastes. Rio+20 outcomes must
provide awareness-raising and capacity-building for developing countries and
countries in transition to help them resist the attempts to push through old
- Ban Highly Hazardous Pesticides -
The agricultural use of pesticides that are highly hazardous to human health
and the environment is long overdue for replacement by sustainable
alternatives. As part of its commitment to implementing the objectives of
SAICM, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called for the global
phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides and has developed criteria to
identify them. These include pesticides that are highly acutely toxic (WHO
Classes 1a and 1b), carcinogenic, mutagenic, reproductive toxins, those listed
under the Stockholm or Rotterdam Conventions, or pesticides with active
ingredients and formulations that have shown a high incidence of severe or
irreversible adverse effects on human health or the environment.
FAO has also called for the use of these pesticides to be replaced by an
ecosystem approach to agriculture based on biological process and the use of
pesticides only as a last resort.
This approach echoes that of the UN Special
Rapporteur on the Right to Food, who found that in order to combat hunger
and malnutrition, states should implement policies to adopt agroecological
practices, as agroecology raises productivity, reduces rural poverty, improves
nutrition and contributes to adapting to climate change.
A World Bank report on community managed sustainable agriculture in India
found that non-pesticide management of the agro-ecosystem significantly
increases farmers? net income, improves household food security and reduces
The agroecological approach to agriculture in place
of the use of highly hazardous pesticides is also supported by the United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD);
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in its report on the Green
and the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge,
Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a World Bank initiative
in partnership with FAO, UNEP, UNDP, WHO, governments, civil society, the
private sector and scientific institutions.
Despite this high level support for replacing hazardous pesticides with an
agroecological approach to food production, little progress has been made.
Many governments and others continue to believe, despite abundant
evidence to the contrary, that chemical-based agriculture is the only way to
feed the world. In ignorance, many farmers continue to use highly hazardous
pesticides, poisoning themselves, their families, future generations and the
environment, usually also diminishing their potential returns and food security.
Rio+20 outcomes must provide a process for the global phase-out of highly
hazardous pesticides and endorse and actively support an agroecological
approach to agriculture.
- Achieving Mercury Phase-Out through a Global Treaty -
The impacts on human health from exposure to mercury are well
documented, with children most at risk from its neurotoxicity. The current
negotiations need to result in a convention text that covers the full life cycle of
mercury in all media, including in products and waste streams. BAT/BEP (best
FAO. 2010. Report of the twenty-second session of the Committee on Agriculture, Rome, 29
November ? 3 December 2010. Rome. Also see FAO, 2011. Save and grow: A policymaker?s guide to
the sustainable intensification of smallholder crop production. http://www.fao.org/ag/save-and-grow
Report to UN Human Rights Council, March 2011, by UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, Oliver
De Schutter: Agro-ecology and the Right to Food)
Kumar TV, Raidu DV, Killi J, Pillai M, Shah P, Kalavadonda V, Lakhey S. 2009. Ecologically Sound,
Economically Viable Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture in Andra Pradesh, India. The World
Bank, Washington DC.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Feb 2011: ?Assuring Food
Security in Developing Countries under the Challenges of Climate Change: Key Trade and
Development Issues of a Fundamental Transformation of Agriculture?
UNEP Green Economy report: Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development
and Poverty Eradication, 2011
IAASTD: The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for
Development, 2008. http://www.agassessment.org/
available techniques/best environmental practice) should be required for all
new and existing release sources, as well as adequate financial and technical
assistance for developing and transition countries to assist them in meeting
BAT/BEP requirements and other aspects of treaty implementation.
All Parties should be required to develop a national goal consistent with treaty
goals for reducing and eliminating its mercury emissions, and implement
education, training and awareness-raising with regard to the action plan.
The treaty should address both large and small scale mining and refining
operations, and in particular address artisanal small scale gold mining
(ASGM). Mercury imports and other sources of mercury supply for ASGM
should be banned and measures to prohibit, restrict, or discourage should
include child labour. Importantly, all mercury waste must be covered by the
Rio+20 outcomes should support the development of an effective and
comprehensive mercury treaty.
- Interaction of Climate Change and Chemicals -
In 2011, UNEP acknowledged that chemical management reform needs to be
undertaken in the context of the growing interaction of climate change on
chemical releases, transport, degradation, exposure and toxicity.
by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Arctic
Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) Expert Group, ?Climate
Change and POPs: Predicting the Impacts,? concludes that higher
temperatures increase primary emissions and releases of POPs. Temperature
also changes rates of mobilisation from materials, products or stockpiles and
alters use patterns, eg, increased demand for disease vector control/DDT. It
was demonstrated that increased exposure to POPs also results from
secondary re-volatilisation and re-mobilisation from sinks, eg, melting of ice,
glaciers and permafrost, flooding of contaminated lands, waste sites and
landfills, as well as increase partitioning of POPs from water to atmosphere.
There is already evidence of increased remobilization of POPs and heavy
metals from glacial and permafrost melt. While enhanced degradation of
POPs due to temperature increases is possible, if microorganisms have a
higher degradation capacity, this could also lead to increased formation of
toxic transformation products.
POPs exposure has direct impacts on individuals and populations, including
endocrine effects on reproduction, immunosuppression and epigenetic effects
(heritable changes) at cellular level. Temperature has been shown to affect
POPs toxicity, and climate change impacts on salinity, ocean acidification,
eutrophication and water oxygen levels could (either alone or in combination)
enhance the toxic effects of POPs.
Climate change and POPs: Predicting the Impacts, Report of the United Nations Environment
Program (UNEP)/Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) Expert Group, January 2011
Rio+20 outcomes must ensure a coordinated and global response to
counteract immediate, medium and long-term effects on human health and
ecosystems of concurrent exposure to POPs and changing climates.
Rio+20 outcomes should endorse the precautionary approach to guide
development of policy actions to address combined negative impacts of
climate change and POPs, including support for mitigation activities with co-benefits.
- Support for Zero Waste and Recycling and the Removal of Single Use
To achieve sustainability, societies and governments must succeed in
implementing Zero Waste policies,
which requires improvement of product
design and content to better ensure the ease and safety of recycling.
Industries and governments have argued that recycling costs are in some
cases more than the production of new items, but this fails to assess the full
costs of the life cycle impacts including the waste phase and the impact on
A pertinent example is the cost of plastic marine debris. The plastic ?gyres? of
the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans are growing as the result of low
recycling rates for plastic. Either via direct dumping, river transport or
unsecured landfill, waste plastics find their way to the ocean vortices. As
plastics do not biodegrade easily in the environment, the amount of plastic in
the vortices is increasing substantially. About 250 billion pounds of plastic raw
material are produced annually worldwide with unintentional releases to the
environment during manufacturing and transport. Plastic pellets are now
widely distributed through the world?s ocean along with plastic wastes.
plastic accumulates pollutants including nonylphenols, DDE and PCB, which
can be up to one million times more concentrated on the surface of the pellets
than in the ambient seawater. This high accumulation potential means that
plastic resin pellets serve both as a global transport medium and a source of
toxic chemicals in the marine environment. Mortality due to plastic ingestion is
now common in seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles. The extent to
which the ingestion of hazardous chemical components attributes to wildlife
deaths is not available.
To achieve sustainability, Rio+20 outcomes will need, as a priority, to ensure
single use plastics are phased-out and provide a clear path to a global
reduction of plastic use and disposal.
Zero waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products
are reused. SAICM agreement refers to ?zero waste resource management, waste prevention,
substitution and toxics use reduction, to reduce the volume and toxicity of discarded materials?
Mato, Isobe, Takada, Kahnehiro, Ohtake, and Kaminuma. Plastic Resin Pellets as a Transport
Medium for Toxic Chemicals in the Marine Environment Environ. Sci. Technol. 2001, 35, 318-324
- Ensure Precautionary Principle and Adequate Assessment is applied
to Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials -
In recent years, a wide variety of nanomaterials (substances smaller than 100
nanometers in size) have been added to an increasing numbers of consumer
products used in day-to-day life, eg., food packaging, sunscreens, clothing
(odor-resistant textiles), pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, agrochemicals,
household appliances, and medical devices. This is despite the lack of
adequate toxicity assessment, labeling, government regulation or
environmental monitoring; and despite the SAICM requirement for publically
available information about all stages of a chemical?s life-cycle, including in
There is huge uncertainty regarding the health impacts and toxicity of
Without mandatory labelling and registration of nano-
products, no one, not even governments, knows which products contain
nanoparticles. Surveys show that many companies do not conduct risk
Yet both in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that
manufactured nanoparticles, now in widespread commercial use, pose new
including asbestos-like pathogenicity and the onset of
mesothelioma in test mice,
and granulomas, lesions, cancer or blood clots.
There is evidence that some nanoparticles can cross the placenta, posing
particular risks to developing embryos.
Nanoparticles have been shown to
have a potential for biomagnification and bioaccumulation in the
and a recent study provides clear evidence that nanoparticles
Nel A, Xia T, Li N (2006) Toxic potential of materials at the nanolevel. Science Vol 311:622-627;
Oberdörster G, et al., (2005). ?Principles for characterising the potential human health effects from
exposure to nanomaterials: elements of a screening strategy?. Particle and Fibre Toxicology 2:8.
Helland A et al., (2008) Risk Assessment of Engineered Nanomaterials: A Survey of Industrial
Approaches. Environ. Sci. Technol. 42 : 640?646 ; Helland A. et al., (2008) Precaution in Practice:
Perceptions, Procedures, and Performance in the Nanotech Industry. J Ind Ecol 12(3):449-458.
For example see Ashwood P, Thompson R, Powell J. 2007. Fine particles that adsorb
lipopolysaccharide via bridging calcium cations may mimic bacterial pathogenicity towards cells. Exp
Biol Med 232(1):107-117; Brunner T, et al., (2006) In Vitro Cytotoxicity of Oxide Nanoparticles:
Comparison to Asbestos, Silica, and the Effect of Particle Solubility. Environ Sci Technol 40:4374-4381 ;
Limbach L, Wick P, Manser P, Grass R, Bruinink A, Stark W. 2007. Exposure of engineered
nanoparticles to human lung epithelial cells: Influence of chemical composition and catalytic activity on
oxidative stress. Environ Sci Technol 41:4158-4163; Long T, Saleh N, Tilton R, Lowry G, Veronesi B.
2006. Titanium dioxide (P25) produces reactive oxygen species in immortalized brain microglia (BV2):
Implications for nanoparticle neurotoxicity. Environ Sci Technol 40(14):4346-4352.
Poland C, Duffin R, Kinloch I, Maynard A, Wallace W, Seaton A, Stone V, Brown S, MacNee W,
Donaldson K. 2008.Carbon nanotubes introduced into the abdominal cavity display asbestos-like
pathogenic behaviour in a pilot study. Nat Nanotechnol, Published online: 20 May 2008
(doi:10.1038/nnano.2008.111); Takagi A, Hirose A, Nishimura T, Fukumori N, Ogata A, Ohashi N,
Kitajima S, Kanno J. 2008. Induction of mesothelioma in p53+/- mouse by intraperitoneal application of
multi-wall carbon nanotube. J Toxicol Sci 33: 105-116.
Ballestri M, Baraldi A, Gatti A, Furci L, Bagni A, Loria P, Rapana R, Carulli N, Albertazzi A. 2001.
Liver and kidney foreign bodies granulomatosis in a patient with malocclusion, bruxism, and worn dental
prostheses. Gastroenterol 121(5):1234?8; Gatti A. 2004. Biocompatibility of micro- and nano-particles in
the colon. Part II. Biomaterials 25:385-392; Gatti A, Rivasi F. 2002. Biocompatibility of micro- and
nanoparticles. Part I: in liver and kidney. Biomaterials 23:2381?2387.
Takeda K, Suzuki K, Ishihara A, Kubo-Irie M, Fujimoto R, Tabata M, Oshio S, Nihei Y, Ihara T,
Sugamata M. 2009. Nanoparticles transferred from pregnant mice to their offspring can damage the
genital and cranial nerve systems. J Health Sci 55(1):95-102.; Tsuchiya T, Oguri I, Yamakoshi Y and
Miyata N. 1996. Novel harmful effects of fullerene on mouse embryos in vitro and in vivo. FEBS Lett
393 (1): 139-45.
SCENIHR (Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks). 2009. Risk
assessment of products of nanotechnologies, 19 January 2009.
can build up in a terrestrial food chain;
even in important staple crops like
rice where transmission of nanoparticles from plant to seed to the next
generation was demonstrated.
The potential impacts of these processes on
both food safety and the environment are unknown.
The United Kingdom?s Royal Society, the world?s oldest scientific institution,
has recommended that given the emerging evidence of serious nanotoxicity
risks, nanoparticles should be subject to new safety assessments prior to their
inclusion in consumer products, and the release of nanoparticles into the
environment should be avoided as far as possible.
Still, the overwhelming
majority of nanoproducts are reaching the marketplace without specific safety
assessments, and with the workers handling nanoparticles not informed of
this fact. No nano-containing products are required to be labeled, and as uses
continue to expand, the societal and environmental exposure to
nanomaterials, both deliberate and unintentional, will inevitably increase.
Current international efforts, such as the OECD nanomaterials sponsorship
program, focus on only a fraction of the nanomaterials already in circulation or
nearing commercialization, and are not expected to provide results that can
assist risk assessment for some years. It is likely that nanotechnology will do
little to redress the systemic causes of poverty, hunger or pollution, and
developing countries may even disproportionately bear nano-risks, by hosting
manufacturing that wealthy countries reject, or becoming dumping grounds for
Rio+20 outcomes must ensure the precautionary principle is applied
throughout the life cycle of manufactured nanomaterials, and that global
governance and assessment processes for nanomaterials are
transparent, inclusive, equitable and driven by sustainability.
Rio+20 outcomes must ensure consumers? and workers? right-to-know
and right-to-choose in respect to nanotechnologies and nanomaterials be
respected, as well as a country?s right to reject particular applications or
uses of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials.
In conclusion -
In this time of increasing globalisation, there is a growing acceptance of the
need for a social license and community consent for industrial activities,
including new and emerging technologies, to go forward. This is critical for a
sustainable future and for the protection of the environment, intergenerational
equity and basic human rights. Taking into account Agenda 21 requirements,
industries must function within these parameters and have no right to operate
Jonathan D. Judy, Jason M. Unrine, & Paul M. Bertsch, Evidence for Biomagnification of Gold
Nanoparticles within a Terrestrial Food Chain, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2011, 45 (2), pp 776?781
Sijie Lin, Jason Reppert, Qian Hu, JoAn S. Hudson, Michelle L. Reid, Tatsiana A. Ratnikova, Apparao
M. Rao, Hong Luo & Pu Chun Ke, Uptake, Translocation, and Transmission of Carbon Nanomaterials in
Rice Plants, Communciations Cellular uptake 2009, 5, No. 10, www.small-journal.com
Recommendations of the Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering, UK (2004).
Nanoscience and nanotechnologies. Available at http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/
unless they satisfy social needs and meet the requirements for a safe, toxic-
With the added pressure on the planet posed by climate change and world
population, the limits of sustainability in a ?business as usual? model have
been reached. The urgency has never been greater for sound chemical
management, environmental protection and social justice. If a sustainable
future is to be possible, the protection of our global commons and, in
particular, our shrinking resources of clean air, water and soil, is paramount.
While communities and civil society view a social license in terms of a
dynamic, ongoing relationship between companies, government, stakeholders
and communities, many regulators still see a ?social license? in terms of a
formal permission linked to the regulator granting the ?license.? This is simply
not adequate. There are many worrying examples of the failure of this model,
for example, in many parts of the world, mining activities and the search for
unconventional gas (shale gas, coal seam gas) has resulted in companies
undertaking activities that contaminate the global commons and the life
support systems on which we all depend. Regulation has not stopped the
intentional release of vast quantities of unassessed industrial chemicals into
waterways, aquifers and airsheds. The time when an industrial activity can be
undertaken purely for profit or economic growth has gone. Sustainable futures
depend on access to clean water, soil, air, food and products as well as the
right to be protected against toxic trespass. These are basic inalienable
human rights for all peoples of the planet and to ensure and protect them is
the real challenge for Rio+20.