The NGO/CSO Global Common Statement for a Toxics-Free Future was developed to create greater awareness of the increasing amounts of toxic chemicals in the environment, our food, communities and children.
The endorsers of this statement have not forgotten the commitments made at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Twenty years later, Rio+20 offers little or nothing to ensure these rights.
Today we call on governments worldwide to take action to protect the public and ensure everyone the right to safe and secure communities and workplaces, free from toxic threats.
And we ask all civil society organizations across the planet to join us in support of this Common Statement– join us and work together in solidarity for a toxics-free future for all.
Global Common Statement for a Toxics-Free Future (please also find it below)
NGO/CSO Global Common Statement for a Toxics-Free Future
We, (Name of organization) a civil society organization, join in the global campaign for a toxics-free future where exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals is no longer a source of harm and where people have the right to enjoy healthy and sustainable green livelihoods that do not harm their bodies or the environment. Green livelihoods encompass the right to safe and secure communities and workplaces that are free from toxic threats to people, surrounding environments and to future generations. This is the sustainable future we want for the world and our children.
We further affirm our obligation to intergenerational equity and the protection of all children’s right to a safe environment, recognising their unique vulnerability to hazardous chemicals.
We recognize that fundamental changes are needed in the unsustainable patterns of consumption, production, resource extraction and disposal that dominate the world economic system. We further, recognize that ‘fundamental changes are needed in the way that societies manage chemicals,’ [i],including their design, use and ‘end of life.’ We note that the large majority of the pesticides and industrial chemicals currently in production and use have still not been adequately tested for their impact on human health and the environment, particularly in the area of emerging concerns that challenge the central dogma of toxicology such as endocrine disruption, epigenetics, ongoing low dose exposures, and the impacts of chemicals mixtures.
Furthermore, we recognize that diseases such as cancer, heart disease, reproductive and developmental disorders, asthma, autism, diabetes, degenerative diseases and mental health illnesses have been shown to have links to the pollution of air, water, soil and food, [ii] as well as toxic consumer products and wastes.
We stress that peoples’ right to green livelihood and a sustainable future are being affected by exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace, schools, agricultural areas and in the home, and that this may cause serious and irreversible damage such as cancer, birth defects, impaired development, negative impacts in the immune system, neurotoxicity and metabolic impairment. We stress with concern that persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals remain in the human body long after exposure and can be passed from mother to baby, in utero and via breast milk, and further cross the blood brain barrier to affect a child’s central nervous system and its development.
We uphold the 2009 SAICM NGO Global Statement and the World Summit on Sustainable Development’s 2020 goal and affirm that ‘living in a pollution-free world is a basic human right’ and that the ‘fundamental right to life is threatened by exposures to toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, and contaminated drinking water and food.’ [iii]
We acknowledge that the sound management of chemicals including much needed chemical reform is ‘essential to achieving sustainable development, including the eradication of poverty and disease, the improvement of human health and the environment and the elevation and maintenance of the standard of living in countries at all levels of development,’[iv] consistent with the Millennium Development Goals.
We stress that meaningful and active participation including the right to free, prior and informed consent by all sectors of civil society, particularly women, workers and indigenous peoples, is essential in regulatory decision-making related to chemical safety, and recognise the urgent need for ‘information and knowledge on chemicals throughout their life cycle, including the risks that they pose to human health and the environment;’[v]
We acknowledge that the chemical industry plays a significant role in the global economy with annual sales of over 3,000,000,000,000 U.S. dollars. We note with concern that a steadily increasing share of the world’s chemical production is shifting to developing and transition countries with limited capacity to manage and regulate these operations and without the compliance mechanisms to mitigate risks to human health and the environment.
We note that almost all countries are increasing their use of synthetic pesticides and industrial chemicals, including hazardous substances and nanomaterials contained in consumer products. Yet, the majority of countries especially developing and or those with economies in transition do not have adequate infrastructure or resources to ensure the sound management of pesticides, industrial chemicals and their subsequent wastes. This is particularly so for the escalating quantities of electronic wastes; the ever increasing solid and liquid wastes from mining and petroleum and gas extraction; obsolete pesticides and their containers; and the vast hazardous industrial waste stockpiles – the toxic legacy of our past.
And we recognise the cost of inaction on chemicals is not fully quantified but substantial. We take note of the World Health Organization’s conservative estimate that industrial and agricultural chemicals and acute chemical poisonings are responsible for 1.2 million deaths per year and at least 1.7 percent of the global burden of disease.[vi] The significant costs that these deaths and disease place on individuals, communities and nations (particularly their poor and most vulnerable) are not borne by the chemical producers or shared down the production supply chains. Instead, they impose an unacceptable burden on developing and transition countries.
In response, we:
- Support the demands and struggles of workers, women and children, indigenous peoples, peasant farmers, consumers and communities affected by toxic chemicals in their exercise of their rights for a healthy environment, worker protection, right to know, fair compensation, medical treatment and environmental justice.
- Commit our organizations to curb the rising tide of toxic chemicals building up in our bodies, and those of our children, which threaten the health and sustainability of the next generation and beyond.
- Commit to the principles that underpin our toxics-free future mission: precaution, right to know, no data – no market, substitution and elimination of hazardous substances, polluter pays and extended producer responsibility.
- Recognize that to achieve a sustainable future, a profound transformation of the chemical industry is fundamental and where the protection of workers, indigenous peoples, community health and the environment are not sacrificed to profit.
- Stress that a sustainable and responsible chemical industry must have the goal of eliminating all pollution and pay the true cost of its products throughout their life cycles. Cost internalization mechanisms and fiscal reforms, which truly reflect ecological values can assist in this and help provide the resources needed for the development of sound chemicals management policy, assessment, monitoring and practices.
- Support clear criteria and policies that encourage investments in a sustainable chemical industry to help phase out the production of unsustainable chemicals; to support green design and green chemistry; to fully assess using a life cycle approach all new technologies prior to their entering the market, and to protect developing and transition countries from unfair health, environmental and economic burdens.
- Recognize that to achieve a sustainable future in which everyone can have access to safe, nutritious food, a profound transformation of agriculture to biodiversity-based ecological agriculture is fundamental.
- Noting the threats posed to consumers globally from unregulated toxic product ingredients, we support and promote the implementation of precautionary, cradle to cradle, life cycle approaches to product design as well as green procurement policies, preferably with third party certification, so that toxic chemicals do not find their way into consumer products and the ensuing wastes; and we call for mandatory labeling of hazardous substances in products and in the workplace, ensuring the protection of all people and the environment.
- Support full chemical and material ingredient transparency and information access throughout supply chains and with the public.
- Work to achieve a global phase-out of hazardous, unmanageable chemicals including highly hazardous pesticides, persistent bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs), very persistent and very bioaccumulative substances (vPvBs), genotoxins, carcinogens, chemicals affecting reproduction, the immune and nervous systems, endocrine disruptors, substances that undergo long-range transport, toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead and hazardous nanomaterials. A global phase out is essential in order to avoid banned and restricted chemicals from one country being sold or dumped in another, particularly in those countries that do not have the capacity to enforce sound management of chemicals.
Commit ourselves and call upon all stakeholders including governments, non governmental organisations, businesses, private sector institutions, academia, intergovernmental organisations, media and others to work together to urgently reform and harmonise chemicals assessment, regulation and management internationally, regionally and domestically so as to achieve a toxic free future for all. We call for a recommitment to SAICM at the highest political level and urge governments and stakeholders to fundamentally increase financial support to the implementation of SAICM and the multilateral chemical and waste agreements.
 Epigenetics is the study of heritable alterations in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in DNA sequence. An epigenetic trait is a stably inherited phenotype resulting from changes in a chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090401181447.htm
[ii] WHO Media Release ‘Almost a quarter of all disease caused by environmental exposure’ 16 JUNE 2006 | GENEVA Available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr32/en/index.html
[iv] Para 1 Dubai Declaration
[v] Para 21 Dubai Declaration
[vi] A. Pruess-Ustun, C. Vickers, P. Haefliger, and R. Bertollini, “Knowns and Unknowns on the Burden of Disease due to Chemicals: A Systematic Review”, Environmental Health, 10: 9, 2011.