Toxic dangers in KZN

2016-06-03 08:01

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A STUDY has revealed that 25% of domestic market chemical companies in KwaZulu-Natal do not provide their employees with chemical safety training.

An international report by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, together with groundWork (a Pietermaritzburg environmental organisation) and nine other partners conducted a poll, which showed 25% of South African chemical company employees were at risk.

A statement by groundWork said in 2015, two sets of polls were conducted on chemical safety issues addressing consumer opinions in 14 cities (in 10 countries) and company opinions in 10 countries.

In South Africa, the respondents for the poll all came from KZN.

Environmental health campaigner at groundWork, Rico Euripidou, said most people did not understand the risk associated with working with chemicals. “Chemical elements that have been deliberately added to household and personal hygiene products, in pharmaceuticals and in ordinary consumer goods such as electronics, plastic items and clothes are everywhere,” he said.

Euripidou said consumers in all 14 cities said they were worried about consumer goods containing chemicals hazardous to health and the environment.

Consumers also had little trust regarding claims that a product is safe to health and the environment if the claim comes from the companies themselves.

“Although people know that chemicals are being added to everyday products, the risks are not understood and that the public do not trust when the supplier says the product is ‘safe’ shows that there is something fundamentally wrong,” said Euripidou.

In the statement by groundWork, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation president Johanna Sandahl said chemicals were an “indispensable component of economic growth” but had to be managed properly.

They urge companies to participate in the Chemicals in Product Programme. “To address this insufficiency, decision makers have clear priority actions listed in documents such as the Overall Orientation and Guidance for Achieving the 2020 Goal of Sound Management of Chemicals,” said the statement.

The report was released as waste managers from municipalities around SA gathered in Durban this week to discuss how cities and towns can safely deal with waste and highly toxic elements like mercury, which is still used in the cosmetic and mining sectors.

Director of hazardous chemical management at the Department of Environment Affairs, Margaret Molefe, said at least one report puts SA second after China on mercury poisoning.

She said mercury knows no borders and keeps on poisoning down stream.

Molefe called on local groups who still used mercury, who range from illegal miners to the makers of the low-energy lightbulbs distributed by Eskom, to join in the global phasing out of the quicksilver killer.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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