New chemicals, old risks: why careful monitoring must be maintained

Potentially harmful chemicals permeate today's workplaces. While the number of
chemicals used in industry now exceeds 50,000, an additional 500 new chemicals
are introduced in industry every year. The toll from chemical exposure is heavy
- the ILO estimates that of the 2 million work-related fatalities, 439,000 are
caused by chemicals, and of the 160 million cases of work-related disease, 35
million are due to chemicals.

A new ILO publication says the toxicity of new chemicals must be checked for
safety and health more carefully before marketing. The 17th World Congress on
Safety and Health at Work will address safety and health of chemicals during a
special session on 19 September 2005.

ILO action in the field of chemicals at work includes the creation of alliances
and partnerships to promote safe use of chemicals at work, direct technical
assistance and the promotion of standards and guidelines for governments, the
social partners and other groups.

ILO has joined forces with other organizations in providing technical advice to
member States. For example, with the United Nations Institute of Training and
Research (UNITAR), the ILO initiated the UNITAR/ILO Globally Harmonized System
of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) Capacity Building Programme
in 2001. To date, pilot activities have been conducted in South Africa and
Zambia and regional activities in Southern Africa and South America. In 2005-6,
UNITAR/ILO will be supporting national GHS capacity building projects in
Indonesia, Nigeria, Senegal, Slovenia, Thailand, the Gambia and the

The International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), a collaborative effort
between the ILO, WHO and UNEP, produce the International Chemical Safety Cards.
To date, nearly 1400 hundred cards have been developed and have been translated
into some 20 languages and disseminated.

Major hazard control projects have been arranged in India and Indonesia, and
the African and Asian-Pacific regional programmes have arranged a number of
workshops, expert visits, and disseminated information in the regions.

More than 70 ILO Conventions and Recommendations relate to questions of safety
and health. In addition, the ILO has issued more than 30 Codes of Practice on
Occupational Health and Safety, including the ILO Code of Practice on Safety in
the Use of Chemicals at Work 1993.

The Chemicals Convention, 1990 (No. 170) and its accompanying Recommendation
(No. 177) represent international efforts to upgrade the national measures and
harmonize regulatory standards. They emphasize the need to establish a coherent
national policy of chemical safety ranging from the classification and
labelling of chemicals to the control in all aspects of the use of chemicals.
Particular emphasis would thus be placed on roles and responsibility of the
competent authority, suppliers and employers, as well as duties and rights of

The Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents Convention, 1993 (No. 174) and its
accompanying Recommendation 1993 (No. 181) aims to protect workers, the public
and the environment from major industrial accidents, in particular through the
prevention of major accidents involving hazardous substances and the limitation
of the consequences of such accidents. It applies to major hazard installations
with the exception of nuclear installations and radioactive materials
processing, military installations and transport outside the site of an
installation other than pipeline.

The Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No. 162) and its accompanying Recommendation
(No.172) advances organizational, technical and medical measures to protect
workers against hazardous asbestos dust. Other ILO Conventions and
Recommendations refer to anthrax prevention, the use of white lead and benzene,
radiation protection and occupational cancer.

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: International Labour Organisation (ILO)