The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) has published a factsheet to ensure information about highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) reaches all SAICM National Focal Points (NFPs) and other stakeholders so they can make effective and informed decisions, as well as play an active role in reducing the health and environmental risks associated with HHPs.

The factsheet titled, ‘The Potential Role of SAICM National Focal Points in Reducing Harm from HHPs,’ provides HHP-related information, as well as advice and suggestions on how to involve all relevant stakeholders to move towards phasing out HHPs and implementing more sustainable alternatives. 

HHPs are a group of pesticides that must be handled differently than other pesticides given their high toxicity. They are too dangerous for common risk reduction measures, such as labeling and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). HHP residues are found in food, putting consumers at risk, and are dangerous for farmers and workers handling them. They are also responsible for a high proportion of poisoning incidents.

HHPs are employed globally for, among other uses: agriculture; migratory pest control programmes; anti-foulants for boats; preservatives for materials; and disinfectants. They are also sometimes used to assist in suicides by ingestion since they are so accessible in many low- and middle-income countries, despite being banned for sale in high-income countries. However, companies based in these countries can still legally produce and export HHPs to low- and middle-income countries. 

The factsheet describes the role of SAICM NFPs in, among others:

  • informing policymakers which HHPs used nationally are banned in high-income countries;
  • promoting national systems, such as poison centers, for undertaking surveys and establishing pesticide use registers, and collecting pesticide health and environmental data;
  • promoting and supporting national stakeholder engagement on HHPs;
  • promoting the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) for HHP identification and sharing relevant information to support national implementation; and
  • establishing collective targets and milestones for removing exposures to HHPs, and monitoring systems.

According to the factsheet, HHP alternatives can include: chemical substitutes; biopesticides; preventive measures like insect screens; non-chemical alternatives, such as traps; and practices such as agro-ecology and integrated pest and vector management. It recommends that NFPs: promote registration of and access to these alternatives in their own countries; raise awareness of risks from HHPs; promote the development of low-toxic alternatives that reduce reliance on pesticides; and collect and share information about viable HHP alternatives. If chemical substitutes are used, countries must ensure they do not exhibit properties that could have negative impacts and result in “regrettable” substitution.

Countries, the factsheet notes, are encouraged to identify and assess their registered pesticides against eight criteria set in 2008 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Joint Meeting on Pesticide Management. A pesticide that meets at least one criterion is considered an HHP. Criteria 1-7 are based on the inherent hazard or toxicity of the active ingredient and the formulated product, while Criterion 8 addresses risks associated with a pesticide, namely severe or irreversible adverse effects on human health and the environment.

The factsheet also details actions other stakeholders, including government, industry, academia, retailers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), consumers, the UN, trade unions, and farmers, can take. 

The publication was produced by SAICM, with the University of Cape Town, FAO, and Umweltbundesamt (German Environment Agency), with support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) project on Global Best Practices on Emerging Chemical Policy Issues of Concern under the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). [Publication: The Potential Key Role of SAICM National Focal Points in Reducing Harm from HHPs] [Publication Landing Page]