Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic compounds that are toxic and are not readily degradable. They can build up in the bodies of humans and animals. Once released, they can spread around the globe via air or water or through the food chain, and thus have a toxic effect on people and the environment far from the place where they were released. They can also disrupt the reproductive process, give rise to hormonal disorders or cause cancer.
The objective of the Convention is to preserve human health, and to protect the environment from any harmful effects of the depletion of the ozone layer. The objective of the Protocol is to preserve the ozone layer through worldwide control, reduction and ultimately elimination of emissions of ozone depleting substances.
Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal with global impact. Mercury disperses widely, is very persistent in the environment, can bioaccumulate in organisms and ecosystems and has harmful effects on human health and the environment.
The global chemicals strategy SAICM (Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management), which was adopted in Dubai (UAE) in 2006, is a policy framework to foster the sound management of chemicals.
The GHS is an international set of rules for the classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals, which must be implemented in national law. In Switzerland the implementation is taking place in a stepwise fashion through the amendment of existing ordinances. Since 20 January 2009, chemicals for applications in trade and industry in Switzerland may be classified and labelled according to the GHS.
EU Regulation on chemicals: REACH
The new EU Regulation on chemicals (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) came into force in June 2007. The aim of REACH is to improve the protection of human health and the environment against risks associated with chemicals, and also to maintain the competitiveness of the chemical industry. In addition, REACH gives greater responsibility to industry to manage risks and to provide safety information on substances. Switzerland has implemented specific parts of REACH in its own chemicals legislation in order to prevent inconsistencies between Swiss and EU law on safety issues relating to hazardous chemicals.