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Global: Stop sending toxic chemicals to poor nations – UN expert

The practice of wealthy states exporting their banned toxic chemicals to poorer nations lacking the capacity to control the risks is deplorable and must end, a United Nations expert has said. The comments by the UN special rapporteur on toxics, Baskut Tuncak, were endorsed by 35 other experts from the Human Rights Council.

Last year, at least 30 states exported hazardous substances that had been banned locally because of health and environmental reasons to Latin America, Africa and Asia. Tuncak said that wealthier nations often create double standards that allow the trade and use of prohibited substances in parts of the world where regulations are less stringent, externalising the health and environmental impacts on the most vulnerable. The ‘racialised nature’ of these standards cannot be ignored, he said, as the dangers are externalised to communities of African descent and other people of colour – a grave concern he said also exists internally in exporting countries with respect to the siting of polluting industries and dumping of hazardous waste. “In nearly every case there is no legitimate public interest justification,” Tuncak said. “These loopholes are a political concession to industry, allowing their chemical manufacturers to profit from inevitably poisoned workers and communities abroad, all the while importing cheaper products through global supply chains and fuelling unsustainable consumption and production patterns. It is long-overdue that states stop this exploitation.”

In reports from Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom, the special rapporteur highlighted dangers posed by the export of toxic chemicals. “States exporting banned chemicals without a strong public interest justification are in violation of their extraterritorial obligations under international human rights law, including their obligations relating to a healthy environment and safe and healthy working conditions,” Tuncak said. “Failing to address this longstanding exploitation is discrimination, pure and simple.”  Read more: OHCHR news release. Source: Risks 957

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