SAICM Process Helping the Move Towards Safer Chemicals in Healthcare

Geneva, 2nd October 2015

For Immediate Release

The international chemicals management community this week took some big steps forward towards strengthening chemical management in the healthcare sector with the progress made on pharmaceuticals, EDCs and nanomaterials at the SAICM ICCM4 being held in Geneva.

In terms of Environmental Persistent Pharmaceutical Pollutants (EPPPs), a resolution was passed to adopt EPPPs as an emerging policy issue in the SAICM process. This is important development as it recognises the problem of pharmaceuticals in the environment as a chemicals management issue that needs to be addressed immediately in order to protect human and environmental health worldwide. The final text of the resolution agreed at ICCM4 outlines SAICM stakeholder’s recognition of ‘the need to protect humans and ecosystems and their constituent parts that are especially vulnerable’ to the effects of pharmaceutical pollutants. [1]

Proposed actions on EPPPs were also agreed in the resolution, which outlines that ‘international cooperation is crucial to build awareness and understanding and promote action on environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants as an emerging policy issue’[2] and that ‘cooperative actions on environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants with the overall objective of increasing awareness and understanding among policymakers and other stakeholders’ are implemented.[3]

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe believe that, although further-reaching action is needed to address the growing problem of pharmaceuticals in the encvironment, this text provides a solid base to build upon as the SAICM process moves into its next phase. Going forward, HCWH Europe believe that SAICM can be used as a base to:

  • Raise awareness among the public about the impact of pharmaceutical pollution in the environment;
  • Create an international network of experts for knowledge-sharing;
  • Build capacity to identify and research emission at every stage of the life cycle of pharmaceuticals;
  • Identify, collect and safely dispose of stockpiles of unused pharmaceuticals globally;
  • Inform healthcare workers and pharmacists and encourage them to implement more sensible prescription methods which minimise the release of pharmaceutical residues into the environment;
  • Develop awareness about safe disposal methods amongst patients so that they are informed of the harm caused inapproriately disposing of unused pharmacueticals and healthcare providers should be encouraged to develop take-back and storage schemes;
  • Tackle the huge problem of non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock farming, which is a major contributor to pharmaceutical pollution and antimicrobial resistance;
  • Create national and transnational laws to harmonise control measures and reduce pharmaceutical pollution.

The health and environment ministries of countries with developing and emerging economies were particularly well-represented at ICCM4 and this is important as these are often the countries most affected by pollution caused by the production of pharmaceuticals. Going forward in the SAICM process, special consideration needs to be given to these issues and these countries need to be supported by strong SAICM resolutions that can be used to influence national policy and resources to assist in its implementation.

The global community recognising pharmaceutical pollution in the environment as an Emerging Policy Issue in the SAICM process is a good first step on a long road to protecting human health and the environment. Now concrete actions need to be taken to reduce pharmaceutical pollution during production, use and disposal. HCWH stands ready to work with all stakeholders to support the practice of environmentally responsible healthcare and reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals entering the waste stream.” HCWH Europe Executive Director Anja Leetz said of the developments on EPPPs at the closing of ICCM4 in Geneva

As well as the adoption of EPPPs as en Emerging Policy Issue in SAICM, there were also important developments in the areas of the existing policy issues of EDCs and Nanomaterials. Although many specific actions on EDCs proposed by NGOs were lost during the negotiations with other stakeholders, some positive developments made it into the final text, such as: the welcoming of most stakeholders of the UNEP and WHO ‘State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals’ 2012 report (the International Council of Chemical Associations, CropLife International and the United States Council for International Business objected to the ‘contentious’ nature of the conclusions of the report as identified by ‘certain scientific groups’), and the invitation to the IOMC  to ‘further develop and implement the plan of work for the cooperative actions in an open, inclusive and transparent manner, and request all interested stakeholders to provide support in these efforts.’[4]

In terms of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials, there were also important developments in the recognition of the need to deepen the depth of available knowledge and research into the possible adverse effects of these materials on human and environmental health. The sound management of nanomaterials is essential to maintaining the safety of patients and health sector workers as new nanomedicines are developed and nanotechnoligies are introduced into healthcare.



Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe is a non-profit European coalition of hospitals, healthcare systems, healthcare professionals, local authorities, research/academic institutions and environmental and health organisations. It currently has 75 members in 26 countries from the WHO European region, including 17 EU member states.

HCWH Europe works to transform the healthcare sector worldwide so that it becomes more ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice across the globe. We bring the voice of healthcare professionals to the European policy debate about key issues such as chemicals, climate change and health, green building, sustainable procurement, pharmaceuticals, sustainable food and waste management. (



Aidan Long,

Communications & Information Officer, HCWH Europe


Phone: +32 2503 0481

[1] SAICM/ICCM.4/CRP.18, adopted into final resolution by SAICM bureau on 02/10/15

[2] SAICM/ICCM.4/CRP.18, adopted into final resolution by SAICM bureau on 02/10/15

[3] SAICM/ICCM.4/CRP.18, adopted into final resolution by SAICM bureau on 02/10/15

[4] SAICM/ICCM.4/CRP.18, adopted into final resolution by SAICM bureau on 02/10/15