Chemicals are an essential part of our lives. Thanks to them important benefits have been achieved: medicines, textiles, inks, electronics, agricultural productivity.....every industrial process and the majority of the products we consume involve chemical products and processes.
Between 1996 and 2006 chemical production grew by 43%. However, this growth has not taken into account health issues, environmental protection or long-term sustainability. One of the biggest problems is the lack of information available on chemical risks, it is estimated that of the 110,000 chemicals on the market there is only information available on 6,000 of them.
Workers in the chemical industry and other sectors where these products are used intensively (agriculture, mining, pulp and paper, petroleum, veterinary) are among those most exposed to chemicals. An estimated 650,000 workers per year die due to exposure to dangerous substances while at work.
In Sustainlabour we believe it is necessary and urgent to move towards a sound management of chemicals:
- Prioritise prevention
- Apply the precautionary principle
- Take into account the lifecycle of products
- Progressively replace the most dangerous substances
- Guarantee access to information on the risks of these substances, before they are released on the market
- Guarantee right to information and the participation of workers in decisions on production processes and impacts control
What is Sustainlabour doing?
- We support the participation of trade union delegates in international meetings on chemicals, such as SAICM meetings, Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Security, Global Conferences on Chemical Management;
- We contribute to training workers so as to improve trade union capacity to act on these issues. Since 2007 we have trained close to 800 trade unionists on topics related to sustainable management of chemicals;
- We raise awareness among workers on prevention and chemical safety. More than 2,500 people receive our bulletin and over 350,000 visits to our website;
- We promote dialogue with the social partners (government and employers) and social movements to move forward on sound management of chemicals
- “Labour and the Environment”: a joint programme with UNEP to strengthen the capacity of trade unions in dealing with environmental issues, especially focused on developing countries. Since 2007 we have worked with more than 200 trade unions from 90 countries. The programme has the support of the Spanish Government
- “Enabling workers and workplaces for SAICM implementation”: more than 600 workers participated from Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. Carried out from 2008-2010 under the SAICM QSP Trust Fund
- “Strengthening workers’ capacities in promoting sustainable management of chemicals”: will get underway in 2011 until 2013 with trade unions in El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, developed with support from the SAICM QSP Trust Fund
- “Reducing the impacts of pesticides”: aiming to strengthen the capacity of workers in Mali, Senegal, Benin and Burkina Faso in reducing the impact of pesticides on their health and the environment. Activities are part of the joint Sustainlabour-UNEP project.