Global chemicals conference moves forward on nanotechnology and endocrine disrupting chemicals

For Immediate Release
September 23, 2012

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(Nairobi, Kenya) – Late Friday night, over 540 participants, representing more than 150 governments, and other SAICM stakeholders from international organizations, industry and civil society, took further action towards chemical safety. These negotiations came at critical juncture for the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

Adopted in 2006, SAICM sets a global goal of achieving the sound management of chemicals worldwide by 2020 and creates a policy framework for achieving that goal. With only eight years remaining to fulfill the current mandate, and limited progress to date, participants gathered in Nairobi for the third meeting of SAICM’s governing body, the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3), to negotiate the future role of SAICM in fostering sound chemicals management globally.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)

One key development was the decision by consensus of all SAICM Participants to add endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as an emerging policy issue. A pre-conference workshop on EDCs by UNEP and WHO illustrated the substantial evidence of adverse effects linked to these chemicals. For the first time, the global community recognized by consensus the “…potential adverse effects of endocrine disruptors on human health and the environment [and] … the need to protect humans, and ecosystems and their constituent parts that are especially vulnerable.”

Moving forward, the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) will develop a work plan and implement a series of activities on EDCs with an emphasis on the needs and risks posed by these chemicals for developing countries. Activities under SAICM will include a report on the needs of developing countries, workshops and other awareness raising activities, case studies, and international support for actions to reduce the risk of harm from EDCs.

Baskut Tuncak, Staff Attorney at CIEL, states that “recent projections by UNEP for increased chemical production, use and release of chemicals underline the increasing exposure of people and wildlife in developing countries to EDCs. Work on EDCs under SAICM has the potential to help to ensure a level playing-field internationally for businesses, and help to reduce the costs of diseases linked to the continued use of EDCs.”

The delay in the release of a highly anticipated update of a WHO report on the State of the Science on EDCs raised questions about the future involvement of WHO, despite the organization’s mandated authority on health-related issues, including those posed by hazardous chemicals. Participants raised concerns during the Conference about this delay, as the report was expected to be released at ICCM3.


The Conference agreed to further work for the sound management of nanotechnologies and manufactured nanomaterials (nano) as an emerging policy issue. The Conference agreed to further awareness-raising and capacity building activities, developing international technical and regulatory guidance, and called for manufacturers to generate information for the safe handling of nanomaterials throughout their lifecycle.

The conference also agreed to include specific activities in the SAICM Global Plan of Action, which will, among other things, enable developing countries to integrate nano into their national chemical management plans and policies, develop producer responsibility throughout their life cycle, and to apply specific approaches for the protection of workers, the public and the environment from potential harms from nanomaterials.

According to CIEL Senior Attorney David Azoulay, “The need for a precautionary approach for the sound management of nanomaterials remains critical. The agreed actions are an important step forward in this direction, but need to be implemented quickly to address the ongoing challenge of nanomaterials development and ever growing dissemination.”

Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs)

Despite 24 countries speaking in support of a resolution for the phase out of HHPs, the opposition of some developed countries prevented its adoption. Some of these delegations noted ongoing efforts under the FAO. Over 90 of the chemicals the Pesticide Action Network considers to be HHPs have evidence of being Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs).

According to CIEL staff attorney Baskut Tuncak, “activity only within FAO on HHPs does not ensure that cross-cutting issues of chemical safety are considered in a holistic manner, a central element of SAICM.”

Other Emerging Policy Issues: Elimination of Lead in Paint, Electronics, and Chemicals in Products

The conference also agreed to further work on the other three emerging issues. Participants adopted, in particular, a resolution to implement the work program of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint. They also agreed to specific actions for the minimization of impacts from chemicals in electronic products, including in requesting the implementation of green purchasing strategies, implementing extended producer responsibility, as well as green design initiatives. The conference also agreed to a broad international awareness raising campaign in relation to chemicals in products, to create a driving force for safer products.

Financial Arrangements

Increasing financial support for SAICM implementation was a major issue for all delegations. After days of negotiations, late into the evening consensus could not be reached on all aspects of financial negotiations. Consensus was reached however on extending the SAICM Quick Start Programme (QSP) for an additional three years, until the next ICCM.

Health Sector

Increasing the role of the Health Sector was featured in the agenda of ICCM3; however, numerous issues raised questions about the future involvement of WHO. Due to financial constraints, it emerged that the WHO would no longer be able to provide a staff member to the SAICM secretariat.

About CIEL

Founded in 1989, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL),, uses the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights and ensure a just and sustainable society. With offices in Washington, DC and Geneva, CIEL’s staff of international attorneys and experts work in the areas of human rights and the environment, climate change, law and communities, chemicals, trade and the environment, international environmental governance, biodiversity and international financial institutions by providing legal counsel and advocacy, policy research and capacity building.