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Reduce health and environmental risks from chemicals, warns report

06 September 2012, 11:08 Trudy Mbaluku

Subs- Sahara Africa is spending more that the total annual funds from donors for basic health care on treating chemical linked illnesses.

Governments and industries should arrest the growing risks to human health and the environment posed by the unsustainable management of chemicals, states a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

According to the UNEP report risks are in the increase dues to continuous use and disposal of chemical products.

The report, UNEP’s Global Chemicals Outlook, released yesterday,  reveals that the estimated costs of poisonings from pesticides in sub-Saharan Africa now exceeds  annual basic health services, excluding HIV/AIDS , aid given by development partners .

“Communities especially those in emerging and developing countries are increasingly using chemical products, such as fertilizers, petrochemicals, electronics and plastics, to improve their standards of living,” said UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner.

“But the gains that chemicals can provide must not be at the expense of human health and the environment,” added Mr Steiner.

 Further  Steiner posed: “Pollution and disease related to the unsustainable use, production and disposal of chemicals can, in fact, deter development efforts by affecting water supplies, food security, well-being or worker productivity.

Alarmingly, safeguards and regulations of chemical disposal are weaker in emerging and developing economies, says the report.

According to Prof Geoffrey Wahungu, Director General, National Environmental management Authority (NEMA), lack of regulations and policies inhibits the body to effectively managing in the country.

“Kenya imports most of the industrial chemicals form developed countries; however, we do not have prober waste a disposal systems,” said NEMA Director General.

 Prof Wahungu promised that the environmental management body in collaboration will partner with the Ministry of Environment, will come up with a policy and guidelines for a sustainable waste management system.

Farmers were urged to turn to sustainable agricultural practice, such use of bio fertilizer and integrated pest management (IPM) instead of using pesticides which are toxin and harmful to human health.

 When over used, Pesticide kill natural soil nutrients.

IPM introduces alternative farming methods such as crop rotation and less use of pesticides

The UNEP report projects that between 2005 and 2020, total cost of illness and injury linked to pesticides in small scale farming in sub-Saharan Africa could reach $90 billion (KES7.7 trillion)

 The study recommends sound chemical management, to reduce the financial and health burdens, while improving livelihoods, supporting ecosystems, reducing pollution and developing green technology.

“Reducing hazards and improving chemicals management – at all stages of the supply chain – is, thus, an essential component of the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy,” added  the UNEP Executive Director.

The UNEP report follows renewed commitments by countries at the Rio+20 summit in June to prevent the illegal dumping of toxic wastes, develop safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals in products, and increase the recycling of waste.

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