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In 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the international community adopted an ambitious target for world wide sound management of chemicals and hazardous wastes by 2020:

[T]hat chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment, using transparent science-based risk assessment procedures and science-based risk management procedures, taking into account the precautionary approach…

Obviously, there is much left to do. The next major step is the fourth session of the United Nations Environmental Program’s International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4) from 28 September to 2 October, 2015. ICCM is the governing body of UNEP’s Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). This is the last SAICM meeting scheduled before 2020.

SAICM is intended to cover all agricultural and industrial chemicals throughout their lifecycle, including environmental, economic, social, health and labour aspects of chemical safety. It has triggered extensive work worldwide on topics such as lead in paint, chemicals in products, hazardous substances in electrical and electronic products, nanotechnologies, endocrine disrupting chemicals and the management of perfluorinated chemicals.

The major new topics to be discussed at ICCM4 are

  • environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants; and
  • highly hazardous pesticides.

Environmentally persistent pharmaceuticals pollutants are one of the few groups of chemicals specifically designed to resist chemical degradation during passage through a human or animal body. “They present a special risk … when they or their active metabolites or degradants enter, persist or disseminate in the environment”.

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