The National Environment Agency has convened a two-day training on Hazard Communication on Globally Harmonised System (GHS) for the classification and labeling of chemicals at the Paradise Suites Hotel; a forum that sought to identify the production and use of chemical as “fundamental economic activities and important for the development of all countries,” whether industrialised or developing.
Chemical can help grow food, produce a large variety of essential goods, promote hygiene, control insects and other pests, cure disease, purify water and address a number of other aspects of human life around the world. As such, they contribute to improving the standard of living in many countries.
“The international community is increasingly recognising the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of classification and labeling of chemicals as an important tool for the implementation of international chemicals and waste management agreements, including the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM),” Nancy Niang, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Forestry said.
However, The Gambia does not manufacture or formulate chemical compound, but heavily import agricultural, industrial and consumer chemicals to meet the challenges faced from rapid population growth and the ensuing negative trends in living condition and the environment, she said. The Gambia has emerged and this by no small means a model for sound management of chemicals in the Sahelian sub-region.
“We are predominantly agricultural country and depend heavily on pesticides and plan growth regulators to enhance agricultural productivity. Pesticides are equally heavily used in the public sector to control arthropod vectors of human disease, and may be abusively used in the fisheries industry.”
However, as the country becomes increasingly cognizant of the vulnerability “of a population with low level of awareness”, the government has taken major steps toward the development of an institutional framework for the sound management of chemicals.
“Chemicals directly or indirectly affect our lives and are essential to our food, our health, and our lifestyle. The widespread use of chemicals has resulted in the development of sector-specific regulations [transport, production, workplace, and agriculture, trade, and consumer products]. Having readily available information on the hazardous properties of chemicals, and recommended control measures, allows the production, transport, use and disposal of chemicals to be managed safely. Thus, human health and the environment are protected,” she said.
“One important tool for addressing the need for safe chemicals management is the Globally Harmonised System of classification and labeling of chemicals (ghs). The GHS is an international standard for chemical classification and hazard communication. It is also a tool that countries can use as a basis for establishing comprehensive national chemical safety programs,” Momodu Canteh, Director of Technical Services Network, NEA, said.
The GHS implementation process started in earnest in The Gambia with the signing of the MoU between the NEA and UNITRA/ILO. Under the terms of agreement, the NEA executed a capacity building pilot project which culminated into the development of the national GHS regulations.