The alarm signal has already been raised on the planet for the climate crisis and the collapse of biodiversity. But little is said about another insidious crisis that can extinguish us: the intoxication of our planet and our bodies.
“Our incessant exposure to pollution and other sources of toxic substances poses a global threat to human rights, including our right to reproductive health.“, Said the UN Special Rapporteur, Baskut Tuncak, on hazardous substances and wastes before the General Assembly on Thursday
Tuncak also explained that when viewed through the lens of reproductive and child health, the importance and severity of preventing exposure to toxic substances from the first years of life the crisis becomes even more acute.
“Decreased fertility, including declining sperm quality and quantity, is just one of many worrying health trends linked to toxic exposure that persist because states have not really prioritized exposure prevention.”He added.
According to the expert, all States have binding human rights obligations that create the duty to take active measures to avoid exposure to harmful substances of individuals and communities to toxic substances.
“However, people and peoples are knowingly exposed to a multitude of dangerous substances that could be avoided. Relief and remedy, to the limited extent that it materializes, is often insufficient and too late for those exposed”, Assures Tuncak.
States have the duty to avoid exposure to toxins in the context of the rights to life, health, dignity and bodily integrity. According to the specialist, it is increasingly shown that the so-called safe exposure levels for many toxic substances are simply presumed while for many others they do not exist.
A false promise
The rapporteur warned that “There is a danger that the human rights to safe drinking water, adequate food and shelter, clean air, a healthy environment, and safe and healthy work, among others, will be a false promise and will never be realized without concerted efforts to make make prevention of exposure an urgent priority”.
Tuncak emphasized that this toxic cocktail of pollution is conservatively estimated to be the largest source of premature death in the world. That cocktail causes and, in turn, contributes to a silent pandemic of disease and disability.
“We can no longer see the substance-by-substance problem, but must address the combined effect of a multitude of chronic exposures, particularly on those who are most vulnerable, such as children, workers, different genders and people living in poverty.“, Highlights.
Serious examples of paralysis
The rapporteur speaks of serious examples of inaction in the face of pressing global challenges, such as the life cycle of plastic pollution, dangerous pesticides, air pollution, chemicals whose safety is not verified in consumer products and pollution of heavy metals in food and water, among other current concerns related to a multitude of adverse health impacts.
“While toxic exposures silently and invisibly erode, abuse and violate the rights to air, water, food, and safe workplaces of billions, particularly children and other susceptible groups, states are locked in years-long debates or decades on what should be considered clean, healthy or adequate”Says Tuncak.
States must fulfill their duty to protect human rights from pollution and other dangerous substances. And, the only way to protect these human rights for everyone and provide a truly effective remedy is to avoid exposure, he concludes.
Source: UN News