Tuesday, February 17, 2009
International Calls for Global Database on Toxins in Products
I've mentioned information systems and databases previously. This past week in Geneva, Switzerland there was a call from an international body for a broader database of chemicals in products such as clothes, toys, jewelry, and electronics. The idea would be to have a uniform information system to help governments, businesses, and consumers reduce the risks to hazardous substances.
These calls came out of a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) workshop designed to set a framework for the second International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM2). And ICCM2, which occurs in May, will review the status of the UN Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). I haven't mentioned SAICM much in this blog, but will likely be doing so more in the future. After many years of discussions by most of the world's nations, SAICM was officially established in 2006 as a framework to "achieve sound management of chemicals" worldwide.
Opening the workshop, the director general of the Swedish Chemicals Agency, Ethel Forsberg, said "As a consumer I want to buy products anywhere in the world that will not pose a risk to my family or be a problem to dispose of, but information on the chemical content of products very rarely exists - even if they contain hazardous substances."
As internet technology has advanced, scientists have contributed substantial data on chemicals and related issues to information systems and databases that are available online. Having access to the information is a good first step. However, most scientific data are not readily understood by the general public, and thus it seems necessary to also look at ways to digest and communicate the information in more meaningful ways. In my opinion, making this jump to the next level in a transparent and unbiased way is needed to avoid having the now accessible data misused by those advocating one position or another.