Integrating Policy: Water, Endocrine Disruptors, and Pharmaceuticals


The links between policies on water and chemicals are straightforward but integrated policy is a challenge that needs to be addressed. The Strategic Approach to Integrated Chemicals Management (SAICM) has played an important role in bringing attention to emerging issues that cross these domains.

Two chemical groups recognized by SAICM that fall outside global agreements and have significant impacts on water, health, and biodiversity are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants (EPPPs). SAICM recognized EDCs and EPPPs as emerging policy issues a decade ago, accelerating cooperative actions among governments and stakeholders to mobilize knowledge and awareness. EDCs and EPPPs are not only important topics for global governance on chemicals. Policy advancements addressing EDCs and EPPPs are also applicable to and can be strengthened by the voluntary commitments of the 2023 UN Water Conference, negotiations for a new international treaty on plastics and a science-policy body on chemicals and wastes, and the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), among other decision-making forums.

EDC and EPPP Risks

Historically, the risks and harms of pollution have not been prioritized in policy agendas commensurate with their impact on the health of people and planet. Worldwide consumption and production patterns have pushed the planetary boundary for environmental pollutants past sustainability while at least 5,000 novel chemicals produced since 1950 are recognized to have nearly universal human exposure. Pollution contributes approximately 17-25% of the environmental burden of disease, or about 9 million deaths per year. This is a fraction of the amount of its sub-lethal harms that lead to a wide spectrum of diseases, many of which are not recognized.

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IISD, 05-04-23