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UN Talks Focus on Too Many Toxic Chemicals


Toxic gas leaked from a chemical plant in Bhopal, India in 1984, killing 5,200 people and injuring several thousand others. Thirty years later, few of the 100,000 chemicals sold worldwide have been safety tested. Children are particularly vulnerable.

Toxic gas leaked from a chemical plant in Bhopal, India in 1984, killing 5,200 people and injuring several thousand others. Thirty years later, few of the 100,000 chemicals sold worldwide have been safety tested. Children are particularly vulnerable.

Only a small number of the 100,000 chemicals sold worldwide have been safety tested.

An international conference on chemicals has a plan that could prevent more than 1 million people from dying every year from chemical-related issues.

The UN says the infant death rate from chemical causes is 12 times higher in developing countries than in developed countries. Lead causes about 600,000 new cases of mental disabilities in children every year.

Conference delegates said it is important to gather more information about chemicals and how they can harm us.

More than 800 delegates of the United Nations Environment Program met for a week. They included government officials, members of the chemical industry and leaders of civil society.

They agreed on a plan to reduce the risk of death and injury from chemicals. Because the plan is not fully funded, there is some worry that it will not be carried out.

Olga Speranskaya helps lead an international group of more than 700 organizations. Her group works to fight dangerous chemicals. It also helps people who have been contaminated by farm pesticides, mercury and other toxic products.

She says her group is pleased with the plan that was approved by the conference delegates. She says if the risk reduction activities that the delegates called for are put into place, there will be a “reduction of toxic exposure on human health and the environment.”

But she is not sure the plan will be put into place by 2020, as the delegates hope. She says the chemicals management program has received funds of only $27 million. She says it needs $100 million to pay for all of the actions the delegates called for.

I’m Jim Tedder.

Are you worried about toxic chemicals where you live? Write to us in the Comments section below, or on our Facebook page.

Correspondent Lisa Schlein reported this story from Geneva. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

contaminated – adj. dangerous, dirty or impure; having something harmful or undesirable

pesticide – n. a chemical that is used to kill animals or insects that damage plants or crops

mercury – n. a silver metal that is liquid at normal temperatures

toxic – adj. containing poisonous substances

exposure – n. the fact or condition of being affected by something or experiencing something; the condition of being exposed to something

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