Environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals is the topic of Chapter 19 of Agenda 21. A substantial use of chemicals is essential to meet the social and economic goals of the world community, and these can be used with a high degree of safety when best practices are followed. However, much remains to be done. Two of the major problems, particularly in developing countries, are (1) lack of sufficient scientific information for the risk assessment, and (2) lack of resources of assessment of chemicals for which data are at hand.
Gross chemical contamination, with grave damage to human health, genetic structures and reproductive outcomes and the environment, has been continuing within some of the world’s most important industrial areas, and restoration will require major investment as well as the development of new techniques.
Chapter 19 contains six programme areas, as follows: (1) expanding and accelerating international assessment of chemical risks; (2) harmonization of classification and labelling of chemicals; (3) information exchange on toxic chemicals and chemical risks; (4) establishment of risk reduction programmes; (5) strengthening of national capabilities and capacities for management of chemicals; and (6) prevention of illegal international traffic in toxic and dangerous products.
For the environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals the United Nations, through the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development established a system of agencies designated as “task managers” for the specific issue areas, in order to develop coordinated policy positions and report to the Commission on Sustainable Development.
UNEP was designated task manager for toxic chemicals.