Minister of the Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe (right), chats with (from left) Director of the Environmental Protection Department, Jeffrey Headley and Representative of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, Hans de Kruijf.

There is room for improvement in how chemicals are managed in Barbados.

This is the opinion of Minister of the Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe, who said the responsibility for chemicals management “is fragmented over a number of ministries and departments” and such an arrangement had implications for a holistic approach to chemicals management.

He made the comments today while addressing the opening ceremony of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) workshop at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Dr. Lowe told the gathering: “There are several gaps in the existing legal infrastructure for chemicals management. The most palpable breach is the absence of legislation to govern the disposal of chemicals in general, and in particular, chemicals that might be categorised as chemical waste. Consequently, there is a need for the implementation of the relevant legislation, where appropriate.

“Secondly, not enough is being done to sensitise the public as to why sound management of chemicals is important. Therefore, an urgent public education and awareness programme must be put in place,” he pointed out.

According to him, persons were regularly observed spraying pest control agents around their homes, while being dressed inappropriately; seemingly unaware that contact between some of the chemicals and the skin could lead to medical conditions, such as nausea, dizziness, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea.

“This lack of awareness has even been exhibited by pest control professionals and others who perform such functions. In addition, there is limited accessibility to information by operators and individuals on the risks posed by hazardous chemicals. We, therefore, need to assess and document findings from incidents involving chemicals. Such assessment and documentation is critical to the learning process in order to prevent the repeat of mistakes in the future,” he stressed.

Sponsored by the Environmental Protection Department and the United National Institute for Training and Research, the workshop is designed to strengthen the mechanisms existing here for the management of chemicals from production through to disposal, including importation. This project is being implemented under SAICM, which is a policy framework for international action on chemical hazards.

Dr. Lowe said the policy framework was of utmost importance to small island developing states such as Barbados, since it supports a goal agreed to at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, which is to ensure that by 2020 chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

“The Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management offers us a unique opportunity to systematically assess the management of chemicals in Barbados and collaboratively devise approaches to address them. By undergoing the process of SAICM, Barbados would be able to be more proactive,” he explained.

He added that the island would also be able to identify priorities for chemical management to determine where efforts should be focused, strengthen enforcement measures and encourage the implementation of national laws and regulations and develop and implement sustainable strategies which strengthen the knowledge, abilities, skills and behaviour of individuals and improve institutional structures and processes for the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle.

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