Adopted by the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) on 6 February 2006 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a policy framework to foster the sound management of chemicals.
SAICM was developed by a multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral Preparatory Committee and supports the achievement of the goal agreed at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development of ensuring that, by the year 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.
Progress in the implementation of SAICM was reviewed at the third session of the ICCM held from 17 to 21 September 2012.
Pharmaceutical pollutants under the spotlight
A call for attention and action on environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants will be presented at the 4th International Conference on International Chemicals Management (ICCM4) in September.
Stakeholders of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) will consider a proposal to include environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants as an emerging policy issue at ICCM4 developed by the Governments of Peru and Uruguay together with the International Society of Doctors for the Environment. It identifies the need for greater awareness and policy engagement; enhanced coordination and collaboration amongst different initiatives and actors; and greater capacity to access and manage risks, at a global level, and particularly in developing countries.
The proposal lists seven activities that should be taken and notes that there are three main pathways that pharmaceutical products reach the environment:
- releases during manufacturing processes;
- human and animal excretion; and
- unused or expired pharmaceutical products from hospitals or households.
It also identifies a number of perceived gaps, including:
- gaps in understanding the risks of chronic low level and early exposure to children and the foetus via drinking water or food as well as possible combined, synergic effects;
- lack of understanding of the fate, and effects of chemicals of pharmaceutical origin in the environment;
- very limited environmental monitoring programmes and lack of comparable sampling systems; and
- no available test methods to assess negative effects after long term environmental diffuse exposure in humans, acquatic microrganisms and other wildlife.
Full text by Brenda Koekkoek 
 Disclaimer: The author is a staff member of the United Nations Environment Programme. The author alone is responsible for the views expressed in the article, and they do not necessarily represent the decisions or policies of the United Nations Environment Programme.