SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  August 2010
Volume 11 Issue 8

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At the SAICM regional meeting

SETAC at SAICM Latin American Caribbean regional meeting

Bruce Vigon, SNA Scientific Affairs Manager

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management Program (SAICM) is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. SAICM has as its overall objective the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Scientific affairs manager Bruce Vigon represented SETAC at the recent Latin America Caribbean (LAC) regional SAICM meeting from 8—13 March in Kingston, Jamaica.

SETAC has been involved in the SAICM program for a couple of years through a risk assessment training project in Tanzania funded by the Quick Start Program (QSP) trust fund, one of the funding mechanisms available to governments and NGOs. SETAC has submitted a follow-up proposal to conduct a similar capacity-building workshop in Peru in 2011. Participating in the regional meeting afforded an opportunity to discuss the scope and timing of the workshop with country representatives. In particular, Bruce spoke with several country representatives who had not submitted their letters of support for the Latin America project and asked them to do so.

There are several topics in discussion at both the regional and global levels within SAICM that are of current interest to SETAC and its members and that could provide additional opportunities for engagement beyond the risk assessment workshops. Highlights of these discussions and the possible SETAC involvement include:

  • Additional QSP project opportunities – There are very few QSP projects on health-related topics, but those that there are might provide opportunities to strengthen the emerging relationship between SETAC and the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX), with or without concurrent World Health Organization (WHO) involvement.
  • Chemicals in products opportunities – There are similarities between what SAICM is doing and various product declaration, life cycle assessment (LCA) and labeling schemes going on in Europe and elsewhere. There might be a possibility to bring SETAC members into the effort, which is still at an early stage.
  • Nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials opportunities – A workshop was requested “to assess the current status of nanotechnology in the region” along with the life cycle, as well as to exchange information on health and environmental risks.  Organizing and delivering this workshop is a potential SETAC activity. SETAC also could support United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) by delivering a second, regional-scale nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials awareness-raising workshop. SETAC needs to formulate a Society-level strategy on environmental aspects of nanomaterials. Then, focused engagement can occur with both UNITAR on the educational side and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the technical side.
  • Hazardous substances within the life cycle of electrical and electronic products global workshop opportunity – the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the secretariats of the Stockholm and Basel Conventions were to have conducted a (global) workshop to develop recommendations in this area in May 2010, but it was postponed indefinitely. Life cycle experts in SETAC might be interested in tracking this because it will tie in with product declarations and other product management schemes.
  • Opportunity to assess relative safety of perfluorinated chemicals and their alternatives – There might be an opportunity for the LCA community to assess whether the proposed alternatives to perfluorinated chemicals really are safer.
  • Opportunity to participate in regional workshop on mercury –
    • Regional aspects of riverine, lacustrine and riparian ecosystem impairment associated with artisanal gold mining are aligned with SETAC science. Information synthesis and interpretation are areas where SETAC could be involved.
    • If SETAC becomes a member in the global partnership on mercury, there is opportunity for involvement in selected activities in the following scientific areas: Mercury Management in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining, Mercury Air Transport and Fate Research, and Mercury Waste Management.
    • SETAC activity is also possible in LAC regional mercury topical clusters, although funding for such involvement is an open question.

In the months since the March LAC conference, we have continued to prepare for further SAICM and UNEP cooperation, including a prospective SAICM Global Life Cycle Capacity Building Workshop where we hope to work with such leading countries as India, China, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt and Ghana, and to establish a dialogue with SETAC members worldwide with an interest in mercury, hopefully leading to SETAC joining the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership.

We look forward to member interest and input in all of the areas mentioned above.

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