For its March 2021 newsletter, the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) interviewed IPEN Co-Chair Tadesse Amera about his role as an environmental communicator, why he wanted to do this work, and the challenges he has faced. In addition to his role with IPEN, Dr. Amera is a co-founder and current executive director of PAN Ethiopia, which works to advance principles of safety and sustainability in agriculture. The IECA newsletter was edited by Shirley Ho and Hanna Morris and is presented here in its entirety.
IECA: Was there a significant life experience that helped shape your attitude toward the environment? If so, what was it?
Amera: In a small town at the northwestern part of Ethiopia, I followed what my friends used to do routinely. Studying inside a small forest at the periphery of the town together with closest friends, swimming in a small river and drinking water from a natural spring that flows all year round remains at the top of my childhood memory.
Quezon City, Philippines - An online gathering of over 100 people held in observance of the World Health Day today highlighted the dangers posed by a family of highly persistent chemicals dubbed as “forever chemicals” and the urgent need to protect the people and the environment from these synthetic substances.
Organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), the “D-Tox Webinar on Forever Chemicals” turned the spotlight on the hazards of PFAS (the acronym for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a group of over 5,000 chemicals that has earned the moniker “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily and can stay in the environment indefinitely, build up in human bodies over time and bring about adverse health outcomes.
Resource persons Pamela Miller (Co-Chair of IPEN and Executive Director of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics) and Jeff Gearhart (Research Director of Healthy Stuff Lab and Ecology Center) led the discussion on PFAS and recommended actions to control and prevent exposure to these persistent chemicals.
BANGKOK / PRAGUE – Pollution of air, soil, and the food chain has reached extreme levels in Thailand, as shown by the long-term measurements conducted by the environmental organizations Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (EARTH) and Arnika (1). NGOs and the communities that are affected are now asking the authorities to introduce a mandatory system to monitor emissions of harmful substances from industrial plants and factories. Data should be reported in a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR), an effective mechanism of public control that has proved its worth in reducing pollution in European countries and has contributed to the safety of communities.
According to several expert analyses from the NGOs EARTH (2) and Arnika (3) focusing on different toxic hotspots in Thailand (4), people living near industrial sites do not have any official data on pollutants in emissions, they do not know to what extent the local industry can negatively affect their land, water, air, and the sources of their food, and they cannot defend themselves effectively against the damage to their health and valuable resources. Thai fishermen are noticing an increasing number of dying fish, the main source of food and communities' livelihood. Very dangerous organic pollutants are unfortunately ubiquitous in the Thai environment. Pollution is caused mainly by industrial activity.
“What we in Thailand actually need is an effective Pollutant Release and Transfer Register – to identify specific polluters and chemicals, to establish strict norms, and to collect the data regularly. This needs to be fully accessible for everyone so that we would all have free access to important environmental data affecting our health. It would also help lawsuits to be solved faster, not like the cases of the Wax Garbage Recycling Centre or Win Process Company, which took decades of complaints and petitions from local communities. We are well aware of the importance of capacitating and empowering communities affected by industrial pollution and their role in implementing a PRTR and we definitely want to support that,” explained Penchom Saetang, director of EARTH.
Dhaka, Bangladesh - Hazardous plastic waste is a global threat, but smaller countries face increasing pressure to accept waste from large waste producers, such as the European Union and the United States. In Bangladesh, a recent event brought together journalists and experts seeking to halt illegal trade in waste. Organizations are working to urge the government to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment to protect Bangladesh from hazardous plastic waste.
"Bangladesh is a signatory to Basel Convention but it did not sign the Basel Ban Amendment that deals particularly with wastes and hazardous wastes management and its transboundary movement. It is high time to adopt the ban amendments to tackle this toxic situation," said Dr Shahriar Hossain, secretary general of the Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO), which recently released a study "Transboundary Movement of Plastic Waste: Situation of Bangladesh". The event was co-sponsored by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).
Gothenburg, Sweden - Women are disproportionally impacted by exposure to chemicals and wastes and under-represented in the governments and private industries that are making decisions about how hazardous chemicals will be used and manufactured. This finding comes from a new report released today to commemorate International Women's Day. The report highlights the effects toxic chemicals have on women around the world while recognizing the key role women play as key agents of change at all levels of society.
“Gender inequalities impact exposure to toxic chemicals at all levels. In the boardrooms and where decisions are being made, women are under-represented and at work they often lack safety information and access to properly fitting protective equipment. And as the carriers of future generations, they face special vulnerabilities from toxic exposure. All of these inequalities lead in many cases to higher impact of toxic chemicals on women. At the same time, we are encouraged that women, in many countries are leading the way in addressing these practical and structural inequalities” said Dr. Sara Brosché, Science Advisor to IPEN and lead author of the report.
The new report, Women, Chemicals and the SDGs, was written and released by the global NGO network, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme. The report describes how both gender – the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female – and biological sex impact the severity of chemical exposure and the resulting health impacts a woman, and the baby she may be carrying, may experience. It also provides concrete recommendations to safeguard the health of women and empower women to continue to be leaders towards a more equal future.
EcoWaste Coalition cautions consumers against mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in the wake of 3.3. online shopping spree
Monday, 01 March 2021
Quezon City, Philippines - The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition today released a new report revealing the unethical and unlawful use of online shopping and social media sites to sell skin bleaching, lightening or whitening products containing mercury, a dangerous poison banned in cosmetic product formulations.
The group conducted the investigation to generate data that will help stem both the supply and demand for mercury-containing cosmetics and pro mote the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which phased-out in 2020 cosmetics such as skin lightening creams and soaps with mercury above one part per million (ppm).
Of the 65 samples procured from online dealers and subsequently screened for mercury using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, 40 were found to contain mercury above 1 ppm. Of these 40 samples, 38 had mercury in excess of 1,000 ppm, 25 with over 5,000 ppm, 19 with more than 15,000 ppm, and 5 were loaded with mercury above 25,000 ppm. None of the 65 samples are duly notified or registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The European Court of Justice confirmed today that the EU illegally allowed dangerous substances for sale in paints when there were safer options – setting a precedent that tightens the screw on companies’ use of toxic chemicals in the EU.
Under EU law, the European Commission and Member States can authorize the use of a harmful chemical when there is no safer alternative available and when the societal benefits outweigh the risk.
Out of almost 200 corporate applications, the Commission has rejected almost none – even in cases where there were significant issues with the evidence companies provided.
The judgment today calls for a structural change in the way that the European Chemicals Agency and the Commission assess whether to allow the use of particularly dangerous chemicals in products and manufacturing processes in the EU.