Region receives US$8m to reduce toxic chemical dangers
Exposure to toxic chemicals found in household cleaning products, processed foods and even clothing can severely damage a person's health. Dr Ahmad Khan, director, Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean (BCRC-Caribbean) stated that some pesticides, cleaning agents and industrial chemicals contain hazardous properties, which can cause cancer, developmental delays, dysfunction of the reproductive organs and reduced immunity.
Dr Khan explained that one particular group of these toxic chemicals is referred to as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). He added that exposure to POPs can be through direct contact with the chemicals, consumption of contaminated foods, or environmental exposure (by air, water and soil). In light of this, Dr Khan emphasised the need for the Caribbean region to make the management of toxic chemicals to protect human health and the environment a priority.
Recognising the importance of this issue, the BCRC-Caribbean, in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), prepared a project document outlining the work required to strengthen the capacity of Caribbean countries to manage POPs. They also approached the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and were successful in acquiring approximately US$8 million to support the project. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) will implement the necessary activities to assist eight Caribbean territories update their national implementation plans (NIPs) for POPs management, which includes the conduct of in-country POPs inventories and related capacity development.
Dr Khan said: "The BCRC-Caribbean is committed to deliver services to our member parties under the four 'chemicals' conventions (Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Minamata) that govern the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and chemicals. Through the successful implementation of this regional project, we will be able to establish the extent of new POPs in our countries and, more important, develop action plans to target the elimination and/or reduction in the use of these particularly harmful chemicals."
CARPHA Executive Director Dr C. James Hospedales also pledged his commitment to reducing the region's risk. He said: "The execution of this project will help strengthen the capacities of member states to better manage hazardous chemicals with a view to implementing environmentally sound mechanisms for the storage, abandonment of use, identification of alternatives to use and final disposal/destruction of these types of chemicals."
In addition, the BCRC-Caribbean is hosting a regional workshop this week (November 8-10) in Trinidad and Tobago to initiate an update of the participating countries' NIPs, POPs inventories and related capacity development. During the workshop, conducted by CARPHA, country representatives will present an update on the status of implementation of their NIP action plans.
The regional representatives will receive training on the assessment of 'new' POPs. CARPHA experts will follow up the workshop by assisting investigations in each participating country to update the NIPs.
Countries benefiting from this project are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment.
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive global environmental treaty on hazardous and other wastes. It aims to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects resulting from the generation, management, transboundary movements and disposal of hazardous and other wastes.
CARPHA is the region's collective response to strengthening and reorienting our health-system approach to address the changing nature of public health challenges.