Environmentalists in Bahrain have joined hands to help protect nature and man from the potential risks of chemical waste. Awareness drive to emphasize that lack of proper management and disposal practices of chemical substances and wastes can pose potential risks to health and environment, was initiated by departments concerned, along with community members.
Chemicals have the potential to cause considerable health and environmental problems throughout their life cycle, from production-transportation-storage-use to its disposal, observed Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife, Waste Disposal Unit Directorate of Environmental Control Eng. Rehan Ahmed. Ahmed was speaking at a seminar which focused on the potential hazards posed by chemicals held by the Institution of Engineers Pakistan- Bahrain Chapter (IEP-BC).
The seminar titled “Chemicals Management in Bahrain” organized in association with the Bahrain Society of Engineers (BSE), was held at the Bahrain Society of Engineers Auditorium, Juffair.
Exposed to Chemical Cocktail
“In reality, no one is ever exposed to a single chemical, but to a chemical soup or cocktail, the ingredients of which may interact to cause unpredictable health and ecological effects,” said Ahmed. “Even when testing is done, each chemical is tested individually rather than in the combinations that one is exposed to in the real world,” he said.
He pointed out that out of the about 100,000 currently existing chemicals in the world, only a small percentage is screened for potential health effects. “There has been a phenomenal growth in the number of chemical compounds with time,” he added.
Statistics as on May 2011 show that about 60 million chemical compounds are known and 1,000 new compounds are formed each year. Among the approximately 15,000 tested, only few chemicals have been studied enough to correctly estimate potential risks from exposure.
Chemical Safety Policy Framework
The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world, pointed out Ahmed. SAICM has as its overall objective of having sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle. “By 2020, SAICM aims at chemicals being produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment,” he explained.
Ahmed lauded the role of the General Directorate for the Protection of Environment and Wild Life (GDPEW) and is subsidiaries in Bahrain which plays a major role in chemical waste disposal. “Waste is stored, reused and recycled, exchanged, sent back to manufacturer, characterized (WPS, Lab Analysis etc) and finally disposed at Hafeera Industrial Landfill Site,” he said.
Chemicals & Environment
Ahmed said that the sound management of chemicals is essential for environmental sustainability. “The main concerns about chemicals in the environment are their persistence and their possible toxicity,” he said. “The main sources of human exposure to toxic chemicals are the areas we think are safest: our own homes, offices and cars. “Everyday consumer products pose greater threat to our health than industrial pollution — even in highly industrialized cities. “Fish and other aquatic life are also affected by what we use in our homes and gardens.
“Much of the hazardous waste goes down the drain into local sewers or septic systems, or is sent to regular landfills – eventually leaching into water bodies and coastal waters,” he pointed out.
Obligations & Responsibilities
“Control the import, export and use of chemicals to avoid and minimize any adverse impacts on health and environment,” said Directorate of Environmental Control, Pollution Control Section head Jaffar Ahmed Salman.
There is no ‘safe’ chemical, but there is ‘safe use’ of chemical, he said, in a second session at the seminar. Salman spoke on ‘Chemicals Management in Bahrain- Obligations and Responsibilities’ which highlighted that the Environmental Authority – (GDEWP), Importers and Users and Employees are in unison responsible for safe use of chemicals.
The GDEWP are the policy makers with rights to issue licenses and control measures to ensure the same. The importers and users has roles including Provision of complete information of chemicals, training of employees, maintaining data and providing personal protective equipments (PPE). The employees’ role is, last but not the least, to follow instructions of chemical protection, avoid indifference activities and understanding and following procedures. “There is a set procedure for the chemicals coming into Bahrain to be approved,” said Salman.
“It passes through phases right from the submission of application, its review, visiting the activity place by Environmental Inspector complying with Ministerial Order O 5/2005, checking with the approved, banned and restricted chemicals, approval from Directorate of Environment Control (DEC) with list of chemicals and conditions and periodical Inspection,” he explained. “Legislations regarding chemical management in Bahrain are the Legislative Decree No. 21 of 1996 with Respect to the Environment (main legislation), he added.
“Article -14 and 15 of the decree specifies on prohibition of dealing with hazardous materials and waste without a permit from the GDEWP and persons concerned. “Ministerial Orders no. 1 of 1999, no. 3 and 4 of 2006 deal with Control Ozone Depleting Substances, Hazardous Waste Management, and Chemicals Management,” he added.
Salman pointed out that insecticides, pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals are controlled and permitted by agriculture directorate, while house-hold chemicals, cosmetics and drugs by the Health Ministry.