UN study: African pesticide use could lead to a $90 billion in illness

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A new UN report says the potential cost of pesticide-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa between 2005 and 2020 could reach $90bn. The research highlights the increasing health and environmental dangers from chemicals.

The report was released by the UN environment programme (UNEP). It states that the estimated cost of pesticide poisoning exceeds the total amount of international aid for basic health services for the region, excluding HIV/Aids.

The documents warned that the increasing production of chemicals, especially in emerging economies where there are weaker safeguards, is damaging the environment and increasing health costs. The agency is urging governments to take action. It also called for the industry to meet a target set by the world’s nations in 2002 to produce and use chemicals by 2020 in ways that minimize adverse effects on human health and the environment.

The Guardian quotes Rachel Massey of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is one of the report’s authors. At a press conference launching the report, she said that chemical production is growing worldwide — but the growth is most rapid in emerging economies.

From 2012-2020, she said, chemical production in North America and Europe is expected to grow by about 25% compared with growth of about 50% in the Asia-Pacific region, about 40% in Africa and the Middle East, and about 33% in Latin America.

“Studies, projecting trends to 2050, forecast that global chemical sales will grow about 3% per year to 2050,” the report said.

UNEP notes that in richer countries, the numbers indicate that inorganic chemicals including amonia, hydrogen sulphide, sulphuric acid and hydrochloric acid are routinely among the air pollutants released in the highest quantities.

The Guardian says that, according to Global Chemical Outlook, poisonings from industrial and agricultural chemicals are among the top five leading causes of death worldwide. These contribute to more than 1 million deaths annually.

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