Regulators from the APEC region learned how to better assess and manage chemical risks with the aim of developing rules that facilitate trade and protect human health and the environment.
Leading experts, industry representatives and officials in charge of chemical regulations in APEC’s developing economies exchanged key experiences and acquired new tools for human health and ecological risk analysis in trade of chemical products. This is part of a two-day APEC capacity building workshop held at Thailand’s Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI).
“The term ‘risk’ simply refers to the probability that a particular hazard will cause harm,” explained Dr. David MacIntosh, lead workshop facilitator and Chief Science Officer at Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc., a consulting firm in the United States.
“By assessing, managing and communicating these risks, regulators will be better placed to ensure the safe and sustainable use and trade of chemicals,” he continued. “They will be able to develop and implement a policy framework that stimulates growth, innovation and trade, while protecting the environment and the public at the same time.”
“What we hope to ultimately achieve is greater innovation, safer technologies, and enhanced trade at reduced business costs,” added Dr. MacIntosh.
Global output of the chemical industry has increased 20-fold from 1970 to 2010, according to a 2012 report by the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP). Significantly, chemical production in the Asia-Pacific region is also expected to grow by 46 percent between 2012 and 2020. This growth will present substantial opportunity for improved processes and result in safe management of chemical trade.
Sharing experiences of risk assessment and management in their domestic regulatory regimes and making use of international resources, APEC regulators are taking concrete steps towards developing sound chemical regulations.
The resources include the World Health Organization’s Human Health Risk Assessment Toolkit. Other opportunities for collaboration with the international community under the UNEP’s Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management were also explored.
Recognizing the importance of greater collaboration, Dr. Mathuros Ruchirawat, CRI's Vice-president for Research and Academic Affairs, emphasized the need for improving capacity and cooperation among chemical regulators in the region, particularly in developing economies, in the area of risk assessment and risk management of chemicals.
"It is our belief that risk assessments will allow identification and prioritization of chemical safety and chemicals management issues that will lead to minimization of impacts on health and the environment from the use of chemicals in development,” she added.
The chemical industry is a cross-cutting sector that contributes significantly to all economic sectors in the global economy. Its products – ranging from plant fertilizers and feeds to building materials and pharmaceuticals – are widely traded across borders. The industry is a key economic building block in APEC economies.
This workshop is one of the APEC Chemical Dialogue’s capacity building events. The group serves as a primary forum for regulatory officials, industry representatives and academia to find lasting solutions to challenges facing the chemical industry and users of chemicals in the APEC region.
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