Managing Chemicals of Concern (POPs, ODS, Heavy Metals)

Managing chemicals of concern (POPs, ODS, heavy metals)

There is an established link between poverty and the increased risk of exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals. Exposure of poor people to toxic chemicals is often strongly correlated to geography. In urban settings, low-income or minority populations typically reside in neighborhoods considered undesirable, such as areas adjacent to industrial zones. These places can be major sources of environmental exposure to toxic chemicals, originating from factories, landfill sites, incinerators, and/or hazardous waste dumps (with controlled or uncontrolled leakage).

In rural areas, where three-quarters of the world’s poor live, most chemical exposure is linked to pollution brought by waterways as well as the use of pesticides in agriculture. The improper use, management, and storage of pesticides and chemical fertilizers can result in contamination of air, food, soil, and drinking water (e.g. through pesticide and nitrate run-off), leading to increased human exposure and associated health risks.

Certain groups of chemical substances are of particular concern for poor and vulnerable population groups as well as the environment which provides these communities with livelihoods.

UNDP’s work prioritizes the sound management of such groups of substances including:

Persistent Organic Pollutants

With grants from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP is supporting the implementation of POPs projects in more than 50 countries world-wide, addressing a variety of national and Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants priorities, as well as GEF Strategic Objectives.

UNDP supports the reduction and elimination of all types of POPs contaminants included under the Stockholm Convention, covering a multitude of sectors and activities:

  • Updating of National Implementation Plans (NIPs).
  • Sound management and disposal of POPs pesticides, including the promotion and introduction of POPs-free alternatives.
  • Sound management of PCB stockpiles, including inventories, sound disposal, strengthening of legal frameworks and enforcement capacity.
  • Reducing releases of unintentional POPs (UPOPs) and brominated flame-retardants resulting from unsound waste management processes/practices as well as recycling operations (e.g. e-waste, health-care and municipal waste etc.)
  • Gradual implementation of best available techniques (BAT) and best environmental practices (BEP) for existing as well as new POPs sources.
  • Minimization of exposure levels of communities living close to contaminated areas.
  • Incorporating POPs issues into national development planning processes, and analyzing country development strategies to ensure that there is no increased POPs burden.

Wherever possible and appropriate, UNDP POPs activities are undertaken within a country’s framework for sound management of chemicals, to ensure national coordination among chemicals-related activities in support of regional or global conventions and agreements on chemicals.

For more information on UNDP’s activities in this area download the brochure: UNDP and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants or visit the Waste Management web pages.

Ozone Depleting Substances

UNDP provides financial and technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to protect the ozone layer and safeguard the global climate.

With the financial support of the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol (MLF), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and bi-lateral donors, UNDP helps countries to meet their commitments under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, phase-out HCFCs and introduce Ozone and Climate friendly alternatives through:

  • Institutional capacity development.
  • Policy and regulatory interventions.
  • Validation and demonstration of alternative technologies (low carbon, zero ODP).
  • Setting-up national financial mechanisms to access, combine and sequence different sources of environmental financing funding to meet Montreal Protocol compliance and address climate co-benefits.

Since 1992, UNDP has implemented 2085 projects in 110 countries. UNDP’s portfolio of ozone-related projects has a cumulative total value exceeding US$ 574 million and to date has prevented the release of over 65,000 tonnes of ODS into the atmosphere.

For more on UNDP’s work visit our web pages on “Protecting the Ozone Layer and Safeguarding the Global Climate”.

Heavy Metals

To protect public health and the global environment from the impacts of heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, UNDP, with financial support from the Multilateral Fund, GEF and bi-lateral donors, is supporting countries through the following means:

  • Advocating for and supporting the phase-out of mercury containing products from the healthcare sector (e.g. thermometers and sphygmomanometers) in Argentina, India, Latvia, Lebanon, Philippines, Senegal and Vietnam, among other countries.
  • Conducting country-specific assessments of electronic and electric waste streams and its processing, including waste components of particular concern, such as mercury and lead, and subsequently putting in place plans to manage this waste in an environmentally sound manner.
  • Introducing management schemes that support the waste aspects of obsolete equipment (including mercury waste stream), which arise when more environmentally friendly and energy efficient appliances are being introduced (e.g. as a result of refrigerator replacement programmes).
  • Introduction of Best Environmental Practices (BEP) and Best Available Technologies (BAT) to e-waste processing to avoid harmful releases of heavy metals and other hazardous substances.
  • Policy and regulatory interventions.