Exposure to toxic chemicals found in household cleaning products, processed foods and even clothing can severely damage a person’s health.
Dr. Ahmad Khan, Director, Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean (BCRC-Caribbean) stated that some pesticides, cleaning agents and industrial chemicals contain hazardous properties, which can cause cancer, developmental delays, dysfunction of the reproductive organs and reduce immunity.
Dr Khan explained that one particular group of these toxic chemicals is referred to as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS). He added that exposure to POPS can be through direct contact with the chemicals, consumption of contaminated foods or environmental exposure (by air, water and soil). In light of this, Dr Khan emphasized the need for the Caribbean region to make the management of toxic chemicals to protect human health and the environment a priority.
Recognizing the importance of this issue, the BCRC-Caribbean, in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), prepared a project document outlining the work required to strengthen the capacity of Caribbean countries to manage POPS. They also approached the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and were successful in acquiring approximately US$8 million dollars to support the project. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) will implement the necessary activities to assist eight (8) Caribbean territories update their National Implementation Plans (NIPs) for POPS management, which includes the conduct of in-country POPs inventories and related capacity development.
Dr. Khan said, “The BCRC-Caribbean is committed to deliver services to our member Parties under the four ‘chemicals’ Conventions (Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Minamata) that govern the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and chemicals. Through the successful implementation of this regional project, we will be able to establish the extent of new POPs in our countries and more importantly develop Action Plans to target the elimination and/or reduction in the use of these particularly harmful chemicals.”
CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. C. James Hospedales, also pledged his commitment to reducing the Region’s risk. He said, “The execution of this project will help strengthen the capacities of Member States to better manage hazardous chemicals with a view to implementing environmentally sound mechanisms for the storage, abandonment of use, identification of alternatives to use and final disposal/destruction of these types of chemicals.”
Countries benefitting from this project are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.