WICF Women International for a Common Future + WECF Women in Europe for a Common Future




Women Are Exposed to Hazardous Chemicals Differently than Men, but They Also Have a Higher Susceptibility to Them

Report on the Women & Chemicals Event at OEWG2 (Open-Ended Working Group 2) of SAICM (Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management) in Geneva, December 17, 2014. The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a policy framework to foster the sound management of chemicals - http://www.saicm.org/.

12.2014 | Alexandra Caterbow, WICF

On the 17th of December 2014, WECF hosted a side event on the issue of women and chemicals at the Open Ended Working Group of SAICM, with the active participation of PAN Asia Pacific and BaliFocus. 

The side event attracted many delegates of the OEWG. The issue of women and chemicals is very relevant for SAICM. Women are exposed to hazardous chemicals differently than men. They have a higher susceptibility to hazardous chemicals, are the first environment for their children, and they have less decision making power in politics and economy. WECF presented its new report "Women and Chemicals", which will be released soon. 

Desiree Navaez from UNEP Chemicals
 gave a key note, stressing the importance of the topic for UNEP and their willingness to work further on the topic. UNEP Chemical supported financially the WECF report and the expert workshop held earlier this year. 

Sarojeni Rengam from Pesticides Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) reported from her work on pesticides with women in Asia and Africa, which involves empowerment and capacity building activities, such as trainings on agricultural farming, a traveling journal for women noting their experiences, and the encouragement of women to take political action. Her presentation can be found here.

Yuyun Ismawati from BaliFocus presented her work with women on artisanal small scale gold mining in deprived communities. She assesses the impact of mercury on those women and potential ways for alternative livelihoods. Most of the women do not know what is causing the health problems of themselves and their children. Awareness raising and safer alternatives without mercury are urgently needed. Find the presentation here.

Meriel Watts from PAN AP presented her research on breast cancer and pesticides. We know that 99 pesticides are proven to be linked to the development of breast cancer. Cancer incident rates raise every year, there is evidence that around 50 per cent of all breast cancer cases can be linked to environmental factors such as chemicals. Much more needs to be done to prevent breast cancer. Find out more about the issue in Meriels presentation here.

WECF hopes very much to continue its work on the topic of women and chemicals together with the presenters. Further activities are urgently needed, also on the issues of endocrine disrupting chemicals and the exposure of unborn babies.




WECF Women & Chemicals - Vision & Strategy

People in the European region continue to be exposed to untested and largely unregulated hazardous chemicals in their everyday lives, ranging from household products to personal care products, furnishings and toys. Just 10% of the 100,000 chemical substances used on the European market have been tested for health effects. The main challenges include inadequate and insufficiently implemented legislation at all levels, which fails to take account of the specific vulnerability of the developing child and of women. Environmental health is not mainstreamed into health, social, and consumer legislation. Aggressive industry lobbying against tougher legislation hampers progress. A lack of awareness amongst consumers means they have a misplaced trust in product safety and do not ask awkward questions.

WECF and its members advocate for non-chemical alternatives worldwide, based on three principles: polluter pays, reversal of the burden of proof and the precautionary principle, and highlights the gaps and inadequacies in current legislation.

WECF raises awareness amongst consumers and encourages them to ask questions about the products they allow into their homes.

WECF works with partners to highlight the dangers of asbestos and to work towards a worldwide ban on asbestos and the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the Annex III list of prior informed consent of the Rotterdam Convention.

WECF focusses on the indoor environment of babies and children and engage parents, caregivers, medical personnel and decision makers in raising awareness of threats and creating safe environments, especially with reference to hazardous chemicals.

WECF advocates for the regulation and labelling of consumer products which contain nanomaterials, and the application of the precautionary principle, as well as awareness raising and the right of consumers to know which ingredients are contained in everyday products.