Poor Chemical Management Causes $263 Billion USD in Economic Losses: UNEP and WHO
10 Sep 2012 - 00:00 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
nairoBi, Kenya — Poor management of chemicals, including chemical fertilizers and pesticides, is causing massive pollution of freshwater resources worldwide, including rivers, lakes, aquifers and wetlands, according to a new report prepared by the UN Environment Program and the World Health Organization.
The Global Chemicals Outlook Report, released last week, finds that chemicals such as ammonia, sulfuric acid and synthetic fertilizers are being dumped into surface water bodies, and some of it is seeping into groundwater sources.
Poor management of organic compounds is responsible for global economic losses estimated at $263.3 billion USD, it says.
Chemical production has increased worldwide due to rapid industrialization and mechanization of farming.
“Heavy metal pollution of water ways associated with cement and textile production has increased,” notes the report.
It predicts that global chemical sales will increase by 3 percent by 2050, with Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East particularly affected.
“The total cost of poisoning from pesticides in Sub-Saharan Africa now exceeds total annual overseas development aid given to the region for basic health services. Between 2005-2020, the accumulated cost of illness and injury linked to pesticides among small-scale farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa could reach $90 billion USD,” the report reveals.
The damage caused by acute water pollution to commercial fisheries in China was estimated at $634 million USD per year.
And in Ecuador, freshwater sources adjacent to oil extraction sites contained high levels of hydrocarbons.
At the same time, persistent organic pollutants continue to be deposited into water bodies, accumulate in aquatic organisms and later move up the food chain, it says.
Sound chemical management could reduce the financial and health burden to nations, improve livelihoods and support ecosystem restoration, the report adds.
“Communities worldwide -- especially those in emerging economies -- are increasingly dependent on chemical products, from fertilizer, electronics, plastics and petrochemicals,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
He warned that the benefits these chemicals can provide must not come at the expense of human and environmental health.
“Production and unsafe disposal of chemicals can hinder progress towards key development targets by affecting water supplies, food security and human health,” he said.
However, the report does see renewed commitment by countries to halt unsafe dumping of chemical waste in line with international conventions.
The Rio+20 sustainability summit in June underscored the need for countries to strengthen waste management systems to prevent pollution of sensitive ecosystems, the report says.