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MEDIA REPORTS

CHEMICALS MANAGEMENT

This page was updated on: 01/13/10

 

2007

 

Chemicals Management Media Reports Archives: 2010; 2009; 2008; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003; 2002

DECEMBER 2007

 

PESTICIDE HANDLING LINKED TO ASTHMA IN WOMEN
New research on farmwomen has shown that contact with some commonly used pesticides may increase their risk of allergic asthma. The study undertaken by the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences assessed pesticide and other occupational exposures as risk factors for adult-onset asthma in more than 25,000 farmwomen in North Carolina and Iowa. The study identified an average increase of 50 percent in the prevalence of allergic asthma in all farmwomen who applied or mixed pesticides. Permethrin, a commonly used insecticide in consumer items such as insect-resistant clothing and anti-malaria bed-nets, was associated with both allergic and non-allergic asthma. Permethrin is a common replacement for DDT for vector bourn disease control in developing countries.

Link to further information
Environmental News Service, 31 December 2007

FAO STUDY IDENTIFIES METHOD TO REDUCE ARSENIC IN RICE
A study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) entitled “Remediation of Arsenic for Agriculture Sustainability, Food Security and Health in Bangladesh” has found that improved irrigation practices in Asia could reduce the high levels of arsenic found in rice. The study indicates that arsenic enters the food chain mainly through crops absorbing contaminated irrigation water. When ingested, arsenic can lead to a variety of illnesses including skin disorders, gangrene and cancer of the kidneys and bladder. Arsenic contamination originates in arsenic-rich sediments of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, which filters into groundwater water pumped to the surface through tube wells. According to the FAO study, planting rice in beds that are raised around 15 centimeters above the ground rather than in conventional flooded fields reduces the exposure to contaminated irrigation water, and also produces higher yields.

Links to further information
Environmental News Service , 20 December 2007
The FAO study “Remediation of Arsenic for Agriculture Sustainability, Food Security and Health in Bangladesh”

COTE D’IVOIRE RESIDENTS STILL SUFFERING FROM SPILL
According to the Basel Action Network, as of mid-December 2007, approximately one quarter of the area contaminated by the several hundred tons of toxic waste dumped illegally around Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in August 2006 has not been cleaned up. Olivier Dago Zate of the Akouedo activist group reports that the shipping company Trafigura paid a US$ 200 million compensation agreement to the Ivorian government, but residents still complain they feel sick and the toxic waste has not been properly cleaned up. According to the Ivorian Government, funds are inadequate to treat all victims.

Link to further information
Basel Action Network, 15 December 2007

NOVEMBER 2007

RESEARCHERS IDENTIFY TOXIC CONCENTRATIONS OF MERCURY IN FISH IN FLORIDA
According to a study by the Florida Department of Health, eating largemouth bass from ponds near the former Kirby Mine site poses “a public health hazard.” The abandoned Kirby Mine has large limestone quarry pits filled with water containing the largemouth bass. In 2003, mercury, chromium and lead were identified in the soil, low levels of arsenic and barium were found in the surface water, and low levels of silver, mercury and chromium were found in the ground water. Elevated concentrations of methyl mercury have now been identified in the fish.

Link to further information
Environmental News Service, 28 November 2007

DDT PERSISTS IN ANTARCTIC PENGUINS
Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have found that, despite the drop in DDT use worldwide, Adélie penguins in the Antarctic continue to have the same concentrations of DDT in their bodies as they did 30 years ago. This finding contrasts with findings regarding DDT concentrations in the Arctic’s birds, whales and seals, which have dropped over the last 10 years. The researchers concluded that the stable concentrations were due to the penguins’ exposure to the remnants of older DDT deposition and not new sources, and suggested that pollutants trapped in polar ice continue to leach into the ocean as glaciers melt. DDT is being phased out under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Some DDT use is exempted for the prevention of malaria, mainly in the Southern Hemisphere, until suitable alternatives are identified. Despite specific exemptions, global DDT use has decreased from 36,000 tons per year in the 1980’s, to 1000 tons per year today.

Link to further information
Environmental Science and Technology, 21 November 2007

PRENATAL ARSENIC EXPOSURE CAUSES LASTING DAMAGE -- STUDY
Scientists from Thailand’s Chulabhorn Research Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Environmental Health Sciences have released the results of a study undertaken on 32 Thai mothers who were exposed to arsenic-contaminated water supplies during their pregnancies. The findings suggest that even when water supplies are cleaned up and the children never experience direct exposure to the pollutant, they may still suffer lasting damage. The researchers compared blood collected from umbilical cords at birth with the mothers’ exposure to arsenic during pregnancy, and found approximately 450 genes’ expression had been turned on or off in babies who had been exposed to arsenic while in the womb. This study represents the first time such a response to prenatal arsenic exposure has been found in humans. The study suggests that further research of possible ways to reverse or mitigate the damage, perhaps through dietary changes, nutritional supplements or drug treatments, might show how to counteract the dangerous changes in genetic expression.

Link to further information
Environmental News Service, 23 November 2007

 TOXIC LEAD IDENTIFIED IN TOYS
According to tests commissioned by Center for Environmental Health, California, together with the grassroots online group MomsRising.org, high concentrations of lead have been found in backpacks, rain ponchos, vinyl lunchboxes and toys. The tests identified concentrations of lead ranging from 3,700 ppm to more than 9,100 ppm in four children’s backpacks. Very low levels of exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage in children. 

Link to further information
Environmental News Service, 23 November 2007

OCTOBER 2007

NEW RESEARCH ON LEAD EXPOSURE IN CHILDREN
French researchers have modeled environmental exposure of children to lead through food, tap water and soil and dust. In children, lead can cause significant health impacts such as a decrease in neural capacity and intellectual ability. The research found that lead exposure was mainly through food consumption and that the foods contributing most significantly to lead intake were soup, milk and fruit.

Link to further information
Science for Environment Policy, European Commission, 31 October 2007 

SARKOZY LAUNCHES “GREEN REVOLUTION”
Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, has reportedly launched a “green revolution.” Following three months of consultations with the green lobby, farmers and business leaders, Sarkozy recently endorsed a series of “green” proposals, including halving France’s heavy pesticide use over the next 10 years. France is reported to be the biggest user of pesticides in Europe and is the largest agricultural producer in the region.

Link to further information
The Guardian UK, 26 October 2007 

MANDATORY PESTICIDE USE REDUCTION REJECTED
The European Parliament opposed proposals for a 20 percent reduction in pesticide use over ten years on 23 October 2007. However, the Parliament agreed to ban the sale of pesticides that may cause cancer, damage human reproductive, immune and neural systems, or affect child development. It also voted to prohibit or severely restrict pesticide spraying in and around public spaces like residential areas, playgrounds and healthcare facilities.

Link to further information
European Environment Bureau press release, 24 October 2007
 

RESEARCH INTO LEAD IN CANDY
The US Environmental Protection Agency has announced funding for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to develop a cost-effective method of screening imported candy to identify lead hazards. According to the EPA, the relationship between consuming lead-contaminated imported candy and childhood lead poisoning is a rapidly emerging health issue. The grant will be used to measure lead contamination hazards in imported candies and create a screening protocol.

 

Link to further information
Environmental News Service, 23 October 2007

STUDY RAISES CONCERN OVER CHEMICALS IN MEDICAL EQUIPMENT
At the request of the European Commission, the scientific committee on emerging health risks (SCENIHR) has undertaken a study that found exposure to phthalates, contained in some medical devices, harms patients’ health. Phthalates are a chemical component contained in some PVC-made medical devices. According to the report, the use in medical devices is a particular cause for concern, because high risk groups, such as newborn babies, can be highly exposed during medical treatment. The report recommends that less hazardous plasticizers be used as an alternative to phthalates.

Link to further information
EurActiv.com Press Release, 17 October 2007

GREENPEACE QUESTIONS THE SAFETY OF APPLE IPHONE
According to laboratory analyses commissioned by Greenpeace, the recently released Apple iPhone contains toxic brominated compounds, indicating the presence of brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a common class of BFRs, are an ubiquitous part of our built environment. Flame retardants have improved public safety by reducing the flammability of everyday items including computers, mobile phones and furnishings. Recently, PBDEs have attracted increased international attention because of their potential to impact upon the environment and human health due to their persistence and potential for long-range environmental transport. Some PBDE compounds, including pentabromodiphenyl ether, have been nominated for possible inclusion under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. They will be subject to further discussion at the third meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee in November 2007.
 

Links to further information

Greenpeace press release, 15 October 2007

Persistent Organic Pollutant Review Committee, Stockholm Convention

LEAD IDENTIFIED IN LIPSTICKS
According to a study commissioned by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, more than 61 percent of brand name lipsticks contain lead. The study found that lead concentrations ranged from 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm), but none of the lipsticks listed lead as an ingredient. Lead is a bioaccumulative neurotoxin that can affect learning, language and behavior, and also been linked to infertility and miscarriages. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is calling on the industry to reformulate products to remove lead and to require suppliers to guarantee that raw materials are free of lead and other contaminants.

Link to further information
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 11 October 2007

NAIROBI WASTE DUMP AFFECTS HEALTH
According to a study commissioned by UNEP, the Dandora Municipal Dumping Site in Nairobi, Kenya, is a threat to the health of neighboring children. Dandora, one of Africa’s largest waste dumps, is the primary dumping site for Nairobi and is unrestricted, so it receives industrial, agricultural, domestic, hazardous and medical wastes. Blood tests of 328 children from the area, who also suffer from respiratory diseases, identified high concentrations of lead and other heavy metals. The study urges expedited decision-making on the waste dump in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner.

Links to further information
Environmental News Service, 9 October 2007

Environmental Pollution and Impacts on Public Health: Implications of the Dandora Municipal Dumping Site in Nairobi, Kenya

US APPROVES METHYL IODIDE USE
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved methyl iodide (iodomethane) for use as a fumigant pesticide for preparing soil for crop production. Methyl iodide is intended as a replacement for methyl bromide, an ozone depleting substance being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. However, scientists, including Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffman, stress that the carcinogenic chemical is too dangerous to be used as a pesticide and have requested an independent review of the EPA’s assessment of methyl iodide. The Pesticide Action Network has called for the EPA to promote the adoption of less toxic methods of pest control.    

Link to further information
Pesticide Action Network press release, 5 October 2007

PESTICIDE EXPOSURE LEADS TO HIGHER AUTISM RATES
According to research undertaken by the California Department of Health Services and the Public Health Institute in Oakland, California, US, children of mothers exposed to organochlorine pesticides, endosulfan and dicofol are at significantly greater risk for developing Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The study found expectant mothers living close to applications of organochlorine pesticides during their first trimester were 6.1 times more likely to give birth to a child that developed ASP. Researchers caution that the study is preliminary and more research is needed before definitiveconclusions should be drawn. Endosulfan is currently being considered for inclusion under the Rotterdam Convention of Prior Informed Consent. It is also being considered for inclusion for a global phase-out through the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee.

Links to more information
Pesticide Action Netwok website
Proposal to consider endosulfan under the Stockholm Convention

SEPTEMBER 2007

STUDY FINDS LONG-TERM IMPACT OF OIL SPILLS ON SEAGULLS
Spanish researchers have released a study on seagull colonies breeding on shores exposed to the 2002 Prestige oil spill off Galicia, Spain. The study included analysis of concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in bird tissue and biochemical tests to assess damage to vital organs. The study, carried out 17 months after the spill, identified high concentrations of PAHs in chicks, indicating the spill impacted the food chain, as the chicks were not born at the time of the spill. The study concludes there is a risk of underestimating the impacts of oil spills on seabirds by overlooking long-term impacts from chronic exposure and emphasizes the need to quantify the circulating level of persistent chemicals. 

Link to more information
Science for Environment Policy, 27 September 2007

SCIENTISTS CALL FOR LEAD PAINT BAN
A multinational team of environmental and occupational health researchers has produced the first report on lead concentrations in consumer paints in Africa. According to the study, increased globalization and outsourcing of manufacturing has increased the trade in products with high lead concentrations across boarders. The study calls for international regulations to supplement local efforts and for an eventual global ban on lead-based paints. At the 24th session of the UN Environment Programme Governing Council (UNEP GC), a decision was taken in early 2007 on this issue. The decision requested the UNEP Executive Director to compile an inventory of existing risk management measures, and encouraged governments to reduce risks posed to human health and the environment. The UNEP GC will revisit the issue at its 25th session in Monaco in February 2008.

Links to more information
Environmental News Service, 27 September 2007

IISD RS summary of the 24th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, 12 February 2007

COMMUNICATION DISRUPTION BETWEEN ORGANISMS LINKED TO POLLUTANTS
According to a study by Dutch researchers, pollutants such as heavy metals and pesticides can impact communication between organisms in the biosphere. Heavy metal and pesticides are widely known to disrupt endogenous communication in the endocrine system, but this new research suggests exogenous communication is also impacted. The researchers concluded that a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic organisms rely on chemical communications, particularly in predator-prey interactions, and future research should focus on chemical info-disruption as well as endocrine disruption.

Link to further information
Science for Environmental Policy, 20 September 2007

US WITHDRAWS FROM FORUM ON CHEMICAL SAFETY

The US has announced it will no longer participate in the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS). The IFCS operates under the aegis of the World Health Organization and is designed to develop and promote strategies for and partnerships on the sound management of chemicals. The US said it is shifting its focus to the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which established guidelines for policies to govern the manufacture, transportation, use and disposal of chemicals in ways that protect human health and the environment.

 

Link to further information

Chemical and Engineering News, 19 September 2007

ATMOSPHERIC MERCURY LINKED TO ELEVATED MERCURY LEVELS IN FISH
According to a study undertaken by Canadian and US researchers, atmospheric Mercury emissions can lead to elevated concentrations in fish in as little as three years. The Mercury Experiment to Assess Atmospheric Loading in Canada and the United States (METAALICUS) study was conducted at the Experimental Lakes Area, Ontario, Canada. Researchers used three separate isotopes to dose the upland, wetland and lake, and tracked the fate of newly deposited mercury, through time and across various habitats. According to the scientists, the study increased understanding of the way mercury moves from atmosphere through forests, soils, lakes and into fish. The study concluded that, if mercury emissions from industrial activities, including coal fire power plants, were reduced, mercury concentrations would also be reduced within a decade.

Link to further information
Environmental News Service, 18 September 2007

CHEMICALS BLAMED FOR ARCTIC GENDER IMBALANCE
Research undertaken by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme has established a causal link between high concentrations of man-made chemicals in the blood of pregnant women and the high ratio of girl to boy births. The findings may explain the recent excess of girl babies. In the communities of Greenland and eastern Russia monitored so far, the ratio was found to be two girls to one boy. According to the research, chemicals identified in women’s blood that mimic human hormones are capable of triggering changes in the sex of unborn children in the first three weeks of gestation. Chemicals carried by winds and rivers to the Arctic accumulate in the food chain and in the bloodstreams of the largely meat- and fish-eating Inuit communities. The adverse effects of exposure to chemicals, including DDT, PCBs, flame-retardants and other endocrine disrupters, are widely acknowledged and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants addresses the phase-out of such chemicals. The Stockholm Convention recently initiated work on effectiveness evaluation to assess the impact of the Convention on such affected communities. 

Links to further information
The Guardian UK, 12 September 2007
Stockholm Convention website

INITIATIVE TO DESIGNATE 2011, INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF CHEMISTRY
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) is proposing that 2011 be designated “The International Year of Chemistry.” They are seeking endorsement of the proposal by the UNESCO General Conference in October 2007.

Link to further information
UNEP SAICM website

NORTH AMERICAN INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS PARTNERSHIP LAUNCHED
The US, Mexico and Canada have launched a regional partnership on chemicals under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. The partnership, which was launched on 21 August 2007, aims to ensure the safe development and use of industrial chemicals, and to assess and manage potential risks. Environment agencies in the three countries have agreed to coordinate their efforts to assess and take action on industrial chemicals. Under the agreement, chemical inventories in all three countries will be created or updated by 2020. The joint initiative will also coordinate the management of chemicals in North America as outlined in international agreements.

Links to further information
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) website
United States Environmental Protection Agency website

AUGUST 2007

INTERNATIONAL PANEL ON CHEMICAL POLLUTION ESTABLISHED
The International Panel on Chemical Pollution (IPCP), a network of chemical scientists with the objective of providing scientific support for decision makers, has been established. The IPCP is open to all interested scientists and its declaration is open for signature. The IPCP plans to collaborate with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. The role of the IPCP in the investigation and solution of chemical pollution problems will be discussed at Dioxin 2007 scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan, in September 2007.

Links to further information
IPCP Website
Dioxin 2007 Website

NEW RESEARCH ON POPS BIOACCUMULATION RAISES CONCERN
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) bans or restricts scheduled POPs based on properties related to their bioaccumulation in the fish food chain. Assessment of the bioaccumulative potential is based mainly on a chemical’s octanol-water partition coefficient (KOW); chemicals with low KOW do not build up in the fish food chain and are therefore usually considered safe. New research indicates, however, that the KOW may not be an accurate indicator in food chains that include air-breathing animals. Canadian researchers found that chemicals with lower KOWs accumulated up the terrestrial food chain and in the air-breathing organisms of combination food chains. These chemicals had a high octanol-air partition coefficient (KOA), meaning that they do not easily move from fat into air. According to the researchers’ conclusions, low KOW-high KOA chemicals represent a third of chemicals in commercial use and constitute an unidentified class of potentially bioaccumulative substances that require regulatory assessment.

Link to further information
Science Magazine Report

 

JULY 2007

STUDY SHOWS AEROGEL SOAKS UP HEAVY METALS
US researchers report that they have developed a new porous material that soaks up heavy metals from liquids like a sponge. The new material is an aerogel, a type of rigid foam made from a gel in which most of the liquid has been replaced by gas. Potential uses for the material include removing pollutants, such as mercury and lead, from water. Aerogels are usually made of silica or carbon, however these new aerogels are made from chalcogenides, commonly used in semiconductors. In experiments that placed the new gel in a solution with metal ions including mercury, the aerogel removed most of the mercury from the solution as well as some organic compounds. Researchers noted that the experiment contained platinum, an element too expensive for environmental use, and are working on substituting the platinum with cheaper elements.

Link to further information
Environmental News Service/Reuters, 30 July 2007

CHLORINE PLANTS BENEFIT FROM MERCURY-FREE TECHNOLOGY -- REPORT
According to an Oceana report, there are economic benefits to eliminating mercury use in chlorine production. The report analyzed over 115 chlorine plants that have shifted from, or are in the process of shifting from, Mercury-based technology. Results of the report indicate mercury-free technology leads to increased energy efficiency and an opportunity to increase capacity, sales and profits. According to the report, only five chlorine manufacturers still use mercury in chlorine production, and if these companies were to eliminate mercury use, close to 4,400 pounds of reported mercury emissions would be eliminated annually.

Link to further information
Oceana Press Release, 18 July 2007

POPS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA – STUDY RESULTS
Spanish researchers investigating the concentrations of certain Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), namely polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), in Mediterranean sediments have released results that indicate that elevated concentrations of POPs in the Mediterranean are generally localized and associated with urban/industrial and river discharges and coastal enclosures (harbors and coastal lagoons). The study also included a temporal element, which observed a decreasing trend in DDT concentrations over time. Such studies are likely to become more prevalent as parties to the Stockholm Convention begin work on effectiveness evaluation by gathering regional data on POPs concentrations.

Links to further information
Science for Environment Policy: DG Environmental News Alert Service, 5 July 2007
IISR RS Coverage of Stockholm COP-3

CHILE URGED TO NOT SELL WARSHIPS ON SCRAP MARKET
According to a press release by the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, dated 2 July 2007, two decommissioned Chilean frigates (former UK navy vessels) named the Almirante Cochrane (formerly the HMS Antrim) and the Capitan Prat (formerly the HMS Norfolk) are to be sold on the international ship scrap market. Chile is party to the Basel Convention, but according to the release, the Chilean Navy may not know about the Convention and may inadvertently become responsible for what would be illegal traffic in hazardous waste under international law. The NGO Platform has advised the Chilean Basel Convention Competent Authority and recommended that the ships be exported to an environmentally sound facility, as required by the Basel Convention.

Link to further information
Basel Action Network, 2 July 2007

JUNE 2007

EUROPEAN MINISTERS ADOPT REVISED APPROACH ON WASTE
On 28 June 2007, the EU Environment Council reached agreement to revise the Waste Framework Directive, which had been criticized as fragmented and inefficient. The Environment Council agreed to, inter alia: include the possibility for member states to limit incoming shipments of waste if such “shipments would have the consequence that national waste…would have to be disposed of” rather than “recovered” through incineration; allow some municipal incinerators to be defined as “recovery” as opposed to “disposal” operations, based on an energy efficiency formula; maintain a “five-step” waste hierarchy, establishing an order of priority for dealing with waste, beginning with prevention and ending with landfill disposal; and defer agreement on specific recycling targets, although they agreed that a broad definition of recycling is most appropriate. The European Parliament has indicated that it intends to remain firm on the issue of recycling targets. The outcomes were applauded by industry, but criticized by environmental groups.

Link to further information
World Business Council for Sustainable Development/EurActive.com, 29 June 2007

PESTICIDE USE LINKED TO PARKINSON’S DISEASE – STUDY
The relationship between exposure to pesticides, solvents and some heavy metals has been investigated by European researchers, with results identifying an association between pesticide use and Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system. The study suggests that low intensity exposure to pesticides may increase risk of Parkinson’s, although further research is required to identify specific pesticides associated with this effect. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has scheduled twelve chemicals for phase out due to health impacts, including nervous system and liver damage, some cancers, and endocrine disruption or interference with hormone functions. The Stockholm Convention, through the Persistent Organic Pollutant Review Committee, is considering scheduling further chemicals, including some pesticides. The European research is expected to inform this process.    

Link to further information
Science for Environment Policy: DG News Alert Service, 21 June 2007
IISD RS Coverage of the Second Meeting of the Stockholm Convention Persistent Organic Review Committee

ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF REACH EXAMINED
European researchers recently investigated the potential impact of REACh on the public and private sector in new European Union member States by examining the extra-costs that REACh imposes on industry. The European chemical policy REACh (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) is an integrated system for registering, evaluating and authorizing chemical use. Under REACh, firms that manufacture and import more than one tonne of chemicals per year must evaluate the risks from the use of these chemicals and take steps to manage identified risks. The study indicates that complying with REACh can impact the profit margins of firms by a few percent to 60%, with the magnitude of the impact depending on the number of chemicals used by a firm.

Link to further information
Science for Environment Policy: DG News Alert Service, 14 June 2007

GUIYU DUBBED E-WASTE CAPITAL OF CHINA
Under the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement on Hazardous Waste, e-waste can only be exported with the consent of the importing country, but according to a recent Reuters report, exporters bypass rules by labeling e-waste as “used PCs” or “mixed metals,” and much of this waste ends up in one of the more than 5,500 e-waste businesses in Guiyu, China. The report estimates that the business is worth 1 billion yuan (US$ 130.9 million) in Guiyu alone. According to the report, workers are exposed to toxic chemicals during the disposal process, and many small businesses take few safety precautions to protect their workers.

Link to further information
Environmental News Network, 11 June 2007

PLASMA CONVERTER SYSTEMS PURCHASED FOR NEW RECYCLING FACILITY
Startech Environmental Corporation, has signed a contract of sale with EnviroSafe Industrial Services Corporation of San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the purchase of three Plasma Converter Systems. The combined capacity of the three systems is approximately 50,000 pounds per day and the facility is expected to begin operation in 2008. The Plasma Converter System destroys wastes, including organics and inorganics, solids, liquids and gases, hazardous and non-hazardous waste, industrial by-products and also items such as "e-waste," medical waste, and chemical industry waste, and converts most into useful and value products  including a synthesis-gas, Plasma Converted Gas (PCG)™. PCG can be used to produce gas to liquid fuels including: ethanol; synthetic diesel fuel; and other higher alcohol "alternative" fuels.

Link to further information
Environmental news service, June 4, 2007

MAY 2007

 

SAICM REPORTING INITIATIVE FORMALLY LAUNCHED
The Strategic Approach to Chemicals Management (SAICM) has formally launched a reporting initiative, which will seek to assist in the development of appropriate reporting modalities for the SAICM.  Canada proposed the project to develop guidance for the Secretariat in consultation with stakeholders. The proposal was discussed at the EU-JUSSCANNZ and Central and Eastern European regional meetings in late 2006 and made available on the SAICM web site for comment. The purpose of the project is to assist preparations for and deliberations at the second meeting of the International Committee on Chemicals Management (ICCM), scheduled for 2009, specifically regarding approaches for measuring, assessing and reporting on progress under SAICM through to 2020. The project will address the preparation of a baseline report and the development of indicators for subsequent progress reports and arrangements for gathering information from stakeholders. Results of the project may also inform other international forums, including the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, where toxic chemicals are anticipated to be the subject of deliberations in the 2010-2011 biennium.

Link to further information
Project launch briefing

BACTERIA IDENTIFIED TO CLEAN UP PCBs
Researchers in the US have identified a group of bacteria that can detoxify a common form of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Aroclor 1260. PCBs were used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they do not burn easily and are good insulators, but they are now one of 12 chemicals scheduled for elimination under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The discovery is said to be a first step toward a bioremediation strategy that would naturally detoxify the PCBs without risky removal of the sediments in which they persist, such as through dredging and disposal in landfills.

Link to more information
Environmental News Service, 1 May 2007

UNEP/CHINESE INITATIVE TO CURB ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME
An initiative to assist customs officers in China deal with multi-billion dollar environmental crime has been initiated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), secretariats of multilateral environment agreements (MEAs), the Chemical Weapons Convention, the World Customs Organisation and Interpol. The effort seeks to equip customs officials with the necessary skills and know-how to address this growing problem. A wide range of chemicals are controlled, banned or subject to phase outs under MEAs, nonetheless, environmental crime and illegal trade is estimated to be valued at tens of billion dollars a year.


Link to further information

UNEP Press release, 16 May 2007
 

MARCH 2007

FAO AND WHO SIGN MOU ON THE SOUND MANAGEMENT OF PESTICIDES
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in March 2007 to cooperate through a Joint Programme for the Sound Management of Pesticides under the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (Code of Conduct). The Code of Conduct, adopted by the FAO Council in 2002, is the framework and the general guiding document for the sound management of pesticides, and has established standards of conduct for all public and private entities engaged in, or associated with, the distribution and use of pesticides. It includes the life-cycle concept of pesticide management and focuses on risk reduction and the protection of human health and the environment.

Link to further information
FAO Programme on Pesticides Residue in Food and the Environment webpage

Contact email

COALITION OF CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS RELEASES REPORT ON END OF LIFE OF SHIPS
An updated version of the report “End of Life Ships – the human cost of breaking ships” was released on 15 March 2007 in Hindi by the Platform on Shipbreaking, a global coalition of environmental, human and labor rights organizations. The report concludes that India and other concerned governments need to ensure all end-of-life vessels are fully decontaminated prior to export. It also recommends that the shipping industry should be held responsible for upgrading India’s shipbreaking yards. Shipbreaking was discussed at Basel Convention COP-8 and discussions will continue at COP-9 in 2008.

Link to further information
BAN Press Release, 15 March 2007

AFRICAN BASEL CENTRE FOR TRAINING AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER LAUNCHED
A Basel Convention Coordinating Centre was launched on 7 March 2007 in Nigeria. The Centre was created by a Framework Agreement between the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and the Nigerian Government. The Basel Convention Coordinating Centre will coordinate the Basel Convention Regional Centres based in Egypt, Senegal and South Africa and work in the field of training and technology transfer for the environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes as well as hazardous waste minimization. The Centre will contribute to the promotion of a lifecycle approach to the management of hazardous materials through the coordinated implementation of the Basel Convention, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.

Link to further information
Basel Convention Press Release, 7 March 2007

STEP E-WASTE INITIATIVE LAUNCHED
A new global public-private initiative aimed at “Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP)” was launched 7 March 2007. The StEP initiative will seek to standardize recycling processes globally to harvest valuable components in electrical and electronic scrap (E-scrap), extend the life of products and markets for their reuse, and harmonize world legislative and policy approaches to e-scrap. Participants in this partnership include Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Dell, Ericsson, Philips and Cisco Systems, UNEP, governmental, NGO and academic institutions, along with recycling / refurbishing companies. The Basel Action Network (BAN), however, voiced concern that StEP has not denounced the global dumping of electronic waste on developing countries.

Links to further information
UNU Press Release, 6 March 2007
BAN Press release, 7 March 2007

FEBRUARY 2007

COTE D’IVOIRE TOXIC DUMPING CASE SETTLED FOR US$198 MILLION
On 13 February, the government of Côte d’Ivoire settled with the owner of the Probo Koala, multinational Trafigura, for US$198 million and agreed to drop all charges against the company. The toxic waste scandal began when, on 19 August 2006, the Probo Koala delivered 400 tons of petrochemical waste to Abidjan, which was subsequently dumped in open-air sites throughout the city. The waste contained a mixture of gasoline, water, caustic washings and hydrogen sulfide. A spokesman for Côte d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo stated that the settlement does not include the proceedings undertaken against the multinational outside of Côte d'Ivoire and most of the money from the settlement will go to help the victims. Greenpeace condemned the settlement because it was struck the day before the results of the criminal investigations in the Côte d’Ivoire, The Netherlands and Estonia, where the Probo Koala was impounded, were published. Other environmental groups say the events in Abidjan are a reminder that the Basel Convention has failed to stem the dumping of waste in developing countries.

Links to further information
Environmental News Source, 15 February 2007
Industry News Feeds, 15 February 2007

BAN ACCUSES JAPAN OF INTENT TO INCREASE TRADE IN TOXIC WASTE
The Basel Action Network (BAN) has issued a report that condemns the Japanese government for pursuing bilateral Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) to re-open the Asian region to toxic waste trafficking. The Basel Convention requires all countries to take national responsibility for managing their own waste within their borders, and sets rules on exports. According to Richard Gutierrez of the Basel Action Network’s Asia-Pacific office, EPA arrangements have involved unspoken deals, such as the Philippines being promised access to domestic and nursing labor markets in Japan or Thailand receiving a mass transit investment for Bangkok.

Link to further information
BAN report

CHEMICAL INDUSTRY GOVERNORS BRIEFED ABOUT SAICM DURING WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM
The �Chemical Industry Governors Meeting,� which took place on 26 January 2007 during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, was briefed on the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and invited to participate in its implementation. The WEF recently added chemicals to its list of industry groups, which address issues of primary importance to their sector and provide intellectual stewardship to the Forum�s efforts. Industry Governors groups are made up of CEOs selected from influential companies. This year, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner addressed the group and called on them to regard SAICM as an opportunity to communicate industry�s achievements, share its best practices and hold itself accountable for continuously improving environmental performance in the both the developing and the developed world.

Link to further information
SAICM Newsletter, February 2007

JANUARY 2007

LEBANON LITTERED WITH TOXIC WASTE � REPORT
A UNEP report, released 23 January 2007, found that urgent, widespread environmental problems confront the Lebanese authorities as a result of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel during mid-2006. The post-conflict assessment was carried out at the request of the Lebanese authorities following the cessation of hostilities 14 August 2006. The report indicates that many of the bombed and burned out factories and industrial complexes, including the Jiyeh power plant south of Beirut, are contaminated with toxic and hazardous substances. The report indicates that the missiles used in the conflict did not contain depleted uranium or any other kind of radioactive material.

Links to further information
UNEP report
Environmental News Service, 23 January 2007

IFCS SOLICITS INPUT FOR FORUM VI AGENDA
The Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) has issued a call for input on the list of possible topics for the next IFCS meeting, Forum VI. Forum V agreed on a list of possible topics for future sessions of the Forum. IFCS participants are invited to contact their Forum Standing Committee (FSC) representative with their comments on this list. The deadline for submission is 1 February 2007.

Links to further information

IFCS Forum VI website
IFCS Forum V Report

LEGAL WORK BEGINS ON PROBO KOALA CASE
British lawyers arrived in Abidjan, Cote d�Ivoire, on 8 January 2007 to begin taking statements from thousands of witnesses of the Probo Koala waste dumping case. The lawyers from Leigh Day, the British law firm representing those suing Trafigura, the London-based arm of the firm that chartered the Probo Koala vessel, stated that up to 5000 people may be involved in the class action suit. The dumping caused 10 deaths, while more than 40.000 people sought medical advice after over 400 tons of allegedly highly toxic waste were dumped in Abidjan from the Probo Koala in August 2006.

Link to more information
Guardian Unlimited (The Guardian), 8 January 2007

SAN FRANCISCO CITY SEEKS TO BAN COMPOUNDS IN PLASTIC TOYS
The city of San Francisco wants to lead the United States in blocking certain compounds in plastic toys and other products for kids. However, companies and manufacturers state that the ban violates the US Constitution�s Supremacy Clause, through which federal laws are superior to local ones. The products, which are said to contain bisphenol A and phthalates, include dolls, pacifiers and rubber ducks. The American Chemistry Council and the California Chamber of Commerce filed a challenge to the ordinance, and the city has agreed to hold off on enforcement until an 8 January hearing.

Link to more information
Environmental Science & Technology

US CONSIDERING CREATING NATIONAL MERCURY STOCKPILE
A �Draft Recommendation Paper for Managing Federal Stocks of Commodity Grade Mercury,� obtained by Inside EPA, suggests that the Bush administration is considering creating a national stockpile to store mercury from federal and state governments as well as private sources. The issue of a ban on international mercury sales is expected to be raised at the February meeting of the UNEP Governing Council. The creation of the stockpile could reduce concerns that mercury released into international commerce could contaminate natural resources.

Links to more information
Inside EPA (through subscription)
Basel Action Network

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