Chemical check

A new global agreement on hazardous chemicals

Published: Wednesday 15 March 2006

Deliberating on ending toxins< (Credit: IISD)a new global agreement to protect people and the environment from hazardous chemicals was reached at an international conference in Dubai. Called the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (saicm), the voluntary agreement was reached with participation from governments, the chemicals industry, business, trade unions and a few other civil society groups.

While not legally binding, saicm marks significant global progress on advancing commitments, broad strategies, and tools to improve the regulation of chemicals. It covers a range of measures from risk assessment of chemicals and harmonised labelling, to tackling obsolete and stockpiled products. This voluntary agreement is primarily aimed at helping developing countries with weak or no regulatory systems for chemicals management.

The un had recently raised concerns that chemical production is currently shifting from the industrialised to the developing world, where safety rules are less stringent. To tackle this problem, the conference agreed on "a multi million dollar fund called Quick Start Programme to give financial support to national action plans, especially in the least developed countries". Strong emphasis will be placed on capacity-building and technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition," a European Commission official said. saicm commits governments to take into account the precautionary principle when regulating chemicals. This implies that that governments should act proactively to protect public health and the environment from risky substances, even if scientific research has not fully established that they are harmful.

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