International Organizations Help Set Global Agendas for Chemical Regulations

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July 10, 2018 - Kirsten Wallerstedt

The United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are two key organizations which influence regulatory agendas around the world. Their identification of policy issues can serve as a valuable early warning system for companies to keep an eye out for related regulations in the jurisdictions in which they operate or sell.

UN Environment's Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is one such influencer. SAICM has identified eight emerging policy issues for which resolutions have been adopted on topics ranging from pharmaceuticals to electronics. The eight emerging policy issues highlighted by SAICM are:

  • Lead in paint;
  • Chemicals in products;
  • Hazardous substances in electrical and electronic products;
  • Nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials;
  • Endocrine-disrupting chemicals;
  • Environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants;
  • Perfluorinated chemicals; and
  • Highly hazardous pesticides.

SAICM has adopted resolutions on these eight policy areas, which include a set of actions which are recommended for policymakers in these areas.

SAICM partners with organizations such as the Organization on Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in this work to identify emerging policy issues.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, maintains a list of 10 chemicals or groups of chemicals of “major public health concern.” These 10 chemicals, as of July 2018, are:

  • Air pollution;
  • Arsenic;
  • Asbestos;
  • Benzene;
  • Cadmium;
  • Dioxin and dioxin-like substances;
  • Inadequate or excess fluoride;
  • Lead;
  • Mercury; and
  • Highly hazardous pesticides.

It can be helpful for companies to keep an eye on the priorities set by international organizations, as the issues identified often become subject to increased regulation around the world. Common themes at present include: highly hazardous pesticides, chemicals in electronics, lead in paints, nanomaterials and endocrine disruptors, among many others.

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