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WHO on Deaths by exposure to hazardous chemicals

Context:

According to latest estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) Deaths due to exposure to hazardous chemicals worldwide rose in 2019.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Pollution and Environmental degradation), GS-II: International Relations (Internal Treaties and Agreements)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Introduction to Hazardous Chemicals
  2. Highlights of the WHO report on Hazardous Chemicals
  3. Lead Poisoning
  4. International Conventions and Agreements regarding Chemicals

Introduction to Hazardous Chemicals

  • A hazardous chemical is a chemical that has properties with the potential to do harm to human or animal health, the environment, or capable of damaging property.
  • Hazardous chemicals are categorized as follows:
  • Flammable or explosive (e.g., petroleum, TNT, plastic explosives)
  • Irritating or corrosive to skin, lungs, and eyes (e.g., acids, alkali, paints, fumes)
  • Toxic chemicals (e.g., carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, cyanide, heavy metals).

Highlights of the WHO report on Hazardous Chemicals

  • Deaths due to exposure to hazardous chemicals worldwide rose almost 30% in 2019 from what they were in 2016.
  • Two million people died due to exposure to hazardous chemicals in 2019 and around 5000 people died every day due to unintentional exposure to chemicals.
  • Lead Poisoning was responsible for nearly half of the deaths in 2019.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from occupational exposure to particulates (dust, fumes and gas) and cancers from occupational exposure to carcinogens (arsenic, asbestos and benzene), too accounted for a substantial share of the preventable deaths.
  • In 2019, 53 million disability-adjusted life-years were lost (Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) is the sum of the number of years of life lost due to premature death and a weighted measure of the years lived with disability due to a disease or injury.) This is an increase by over 19% since 2016.

Lead Poisoning

  • Lead is added to paints for various reasons, including enhancing the colour, reducing corrosion and decreasing the drying time.
  • Lead exposure causes cardiovascular diseases (CVD), chronic kidney diseases and idiopathic intellectual disability.
  • Just 41% of countries including India, have legally binding controls on the production, import, sale and use of lead paints.
  • Approximately 800 million globally have blood lead levels at or above the permissible quantity (5 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL) according UNICEF in 2020.

International Conventions and Agreements regarding Chemicals

  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) on protecting human health and the environment from the harmful effects of POPs (i.e., toxic chemicals).
  • Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
  • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
  • The Minamata Convention on Mercury and protecting human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury and its compounds.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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September 2022
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