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TOXIC CHEMICALS:

Discussion began with the Secretary-General's report on toxic chemicals (E/CN.17/ 1994/6), which notes that 13 million chemicals have been identified and up to 1000 new chemicals enter the market each year. UNEP presented the Task Manager's report citing two major concerns: a fundamental lack of knowledge of the risks associated with chemicals and a serious lack of capacity to manage this risk, particularly in developing countries.

The Commission endorsed the Forum established by the International Conference on Chemical Safety held in Sweden in July 1994 and its Priorities for Action, in particular the targets and timetables. It welcomed the invitation of Governments to host intersessional meetings of the Forum (both the US and Australia have offered) and invited the Forum to report to the Commission on its work before the special session of the General Assembly in 1997.

At Egypt's request, the text calls for the development of preparation for a legally-binding instrument for the mandatory application of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure on a global level. The text also identifies "lead" as a particularly harmful chemical. It noted the severe health impacts of human exposure to lead and endorsed ongoing work on that issue. The US proposal to make specific reference to phasing out leaded gasoline was not accepted and does not appear in the final text. Likewise, Canada's request for special reference to long-range transportation of air pollution to the Arctic was not accepted.

The final text (E/CN.17/1994/L.1) also recommends that governments: strengthen the sound management of chemicals throughout their life-cycle; identify toxic, persistent and bio-accumulative chemicals; and coordinate the work on chemical safety by concerned sectors. The annex to this text contains the Priorities for Action developed at the conference in Sweden which outlines six programme areas: Expanding and accelerating international assessment of chemical risks; Harmonization of classification and labelling of chemicals; Information exchange on toxic chemicals and chemical risk; Establishment of risk reduction programmes; Strengthening of national capabilities and capacities for management of chemicals; and Prevention of illegal international traffic in toxic and dangerous products. [Return to start of article]