Many of the problems the world is facing are basically chemical in nature because chemical measures have to be worked out, agreed to, and implemented to find solutions. Thus, chemists’ involvement, scientifically and otherwise, is indeed instrumental to improve the human condition globally.
Different human conditions are often the underlying reason for conflicts within and between regions and countries. Consequently, chemists run the risk of becoming engaged in solving problems that may be the cause of contention, conflict and even unrest. This will inevitably expose chemists to non-scientific challenges related to human inequality, human rights, and social and religious differences, challenges most scientists, including chemists, are not educated and even prepared to meet.
In the lecture chemical and human aspects of these problems will be outlined.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002, as part of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation adopted the chemicals goal that "by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment". Regulation (EC) 1907/2006 on registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH) and Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 on the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP) were developed as part of the European Union’s contribution to meeting the WSSD 2020 goal.
We, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki, are a regulatory agency working for the safe use of chemicals. We implement the EU’s REACH Regulation, which is the most comprehensive (and complex) legislation on chemicals in the world. Our database currently contains information about nearly 10 000 individual substances. The majority of these are high-volume substances with a production above 1 000 tonnes per company per year. To enable the safe manufacture and use of substances, one of our goals is to maximise the availability of high-quality data. Authorities in the EU Member States can then use these data to address chemicals of concern.
Together with the EU Member States, we seize the tasks to:
- Identify chemicals that raise concern and require further attention,
- Collect the missing information for these chemicals on properties yet unknown.
In case of identified risks, we use the regulatory tools given by the REACH Regulation to act. This can result in requests asking the companies to supply missing information, proposals for harmonised classification, listing the substance as of high concern, or proposing restriction to certain uses of a substance.
ECHA should be seen as a hub for scientific excellence in regulatory science, which builds the scientific and regulatory capacity in the EU to address upcoming scientific challenges. ECHA understands its tasks within a regulatory science strategy as to:
- Identify the regulatory needs and the priority areas of practical relevance,
- Integrate scientific development into regulatory activities,
- Optimise the cooperation amongst key stakeholders,
- Communicate research needs to the scientific community and funding bodies.
You, the scientific community, can help us by:
- Identifying and communicate known chemicals of concern,
- Scanning the horizon for current and emerging problems,
- Conducting research and development following precisely formulated problems.
Environmental concern was addressed in relation to the use of DDT as early as 1946, more than 60 years ago and less than 10 years after it was introduced on the market and in fact prior to Dr. Paul Müller received the Nobel Prize for his discovery of this potent insecticide. A young person, fascinated by the possibilities of creating other pesticides just as potent as DDT, moved to Sweden from Denmark: Prof. em. Sören Jensen, to learn chemistry to enable him to fulfil his dreams. This is in fact the background for his discovery of PCBs as an environmental pollutant even though PCB was never distributed to the environment on purpose, as DDT was.
The discovery of PCBs as an unintentional environmental pollutant was strongly contributing to the development of environmental awareness, not only in Sweden but globally. The discovery was the start of what is today known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), i.e. chemicals of huge concern for human health and the environment. The discovery of PCB came at a point when the technology had made some major step forward regarding chemical analysis. Both the electron capture detector and mass spectrometry became available to scientists, an important breakthrough. This is the start of this lecture which is to leading us up to the situation regarding POPs today, 2017, and ahead.
25 years ago the Cold War was coming to an end, the political ice broke up and the Arctic countries agreed to work together to clarify the threats from several types of pollutants. During the 1980s some publications and observations from the North indicated that there could be problematic levels of persistent organics, heavy metals, radionuclides and acidification in some Arctic areas. The Arctic Monitoring Programme (AMAP) was established in 1991 with a mandate to assess levels, trends and effects of contaminants threatening the Arctic environment. AMAP was instituted as the scientific assessment Working Group under the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), later in 1996 transferred to the Arctic Council.
Since its establishment, AMAP has produced high quality assessment reports about the pollution of the Arctic and its effects on the Arctic human populations – especially the Arctic Indigenous peoples and on the ecosystems. Based on these reports, AMAP has produced policy relevant recommendations calling for actions that could reduce the pollution of the Arctic. The AMAP reports and recommendations have, over the years contributed to the establishment of the Stockholm and Minamata conventions, covering persistent organics and mercury – respectively. In addition, countries have taken account of AMAP information in developing local actions and food advisories to reduce the exposure to humans - especially pregnant women.
AMAP’s focus on climate change in the Arctic has increased over the 25 years of operation and several assessments on the change in the cryosphere, effects due to Short Lived Climate Forcers, Arctic Ocean Acidification and combined effects of pollution and climate change has been produced. AMAP will present updated scientific reports and new recommendations to the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Fairbanks 11th May 2017. These reports will document the latest information regarding levels, trends and effects of old and new pollution threats to the Arctic, and updated information on climate impacts - “the Arctic meltdown”, and what the Paris agreement may mean for the Arctic. The presentation at the ICCE conference will provide an overview of the work done, the status and what might be the future threats for the Arctic.
Location: University of Oslo, Campus Blindern
The here listed program is tentative only. The program may be subject for changes (program structure, session topics and length) due to the abstracts submitted to the conference.
The final program will be published here (May 2017) after all abstracts are evaluated and the authors have received their confirmation.