International Programme on Chemical Safety

Implementing the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention for Prior-Informed Consent came into force in 2004. The Stockholm Convention aims to eliminate certain highly toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals that can move long distances in the environment. The Rotterdam Convention provides a first line of defence giving importing countries the tools and information they need to identify the potential hazards and to exclude chemicals they cannot manage safely.

WHO, through the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), conducts risk assessments of chemicals, including POPs and alternatives to POPs. IPCS uses internationally agreed methods for conducting chemical risk assessments so that they are transparent and available for work-sharing by national governments and international bodies.

A background paper summarizing the relevant activities of WHO in assisting countries with implementation of the Stockholm Convention has been made available to participants at the Third Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (30 April to 4 May 2007).

A WHO Workshop on Mechanisms of Fibre Carcinogenesis and Assessment was convened at IARC in Lyon (2005) in response to a request from Parties to the Rotterdam Convention. The summary Workshop Report was provided to the 3rd Conference of the Parties and the full report provided to the 4th Conference of the Parties in November 2008. In addition, WHO issued a document reviewing the adverse health effects of exposure to asbestos and gave recommendations on the prevention of asbestos-related disease. In addressing the 4th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, Dr Maria Neira, Director, WHO Department of Public Health and Environment emphasized the importance of health sector involvement in the sound management of chemicals. She also stressed the importance of including in the Convention, chemicals that have met the requirements, so that human health can be better protected.

In many countries, there is a lack of information on which pesticides, POPs or other severely hazardous chemicals and pesticide formulations are being used and what problems are faced. There may be regulatory and legislative provisions and structures for chemicals management, but these may not however be enforced or fully functional.

WHO can assist in mobilizing awareness in countries and regions about how chemicals subject to the conventions are used, through its global network of poisons centres. These centres can help to identify acutely toxic pesticides and the formulations which may be of concern. The WHO Environmental Health Emergencies team assists Member States in dealing with disease outbreaks of potential international concern caused by chemicals.

Pesticide poisoning represents a major concern worldwide, particularly in developing countries. The IPCS Project on Epidemiology of Pesticide Poisoning, provides tools for developing countries to identify hazardous pesticide formulations for listing under the Rotterdam Convention. The tools of the Project, especially the Pesticide Exposure Record (PER) can assist countries in identification of hazardous pesticide formulations. The documents on pesticides in the Pesticide Data Management System and Databank assist developing countries in decision-making as well as risk assessment.