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UN Program Calls For Better Management Of Chemicals

by Cheryl Hogue
September 10, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 37

As production of chemicals grows throughout the world, governments and industry need to step up efforts to protect people and the environment from improper management of commercial substances, says a new report. Released last week by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the report says poor management of chemicals results in billions of dollars in environmental costs—such as crop losses and fisheries damage—and medical bills. Most of these costs are borne by governments or individuals, not by chemical manufacturers or others along product value chains, the report says. It recommends regulation and reduction in use of chemicals that pose the greatest threats to health and the environment, along with substitution of these substances with safer alternatives. All industries should integrate sound management of chemicals into corporate policies and practices, UNEP says. In addition, chemical makers should be encouraged to make public all health and safety data on their products, along with “all but the most business-sensitive” information needed to reduce risks from commercial substances, the report continues. UNEP adds that the financial sector should evaluate chemical risks more carefully for the activities and corporations it funds.


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