Parma 2010: Report of 5th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health
Strengthening implementation of children’s environmental health programmes – 53 countries of the European, Caucasus and Central Asian region adopt ministerial declaration with clear targets and commitments
WECF report on Parma
Till the last moment there was suspense in this ministerial conference, if all member states would adopt the declaration ‘Parma declaration on Environment and Health”. In the very last session on the conference, - where the member states were supposed the give their support for the ministerial declaration -, the Russian Federation suddenly said that they could not accept certain formulations in the declaration and the working document on the future of the process which it refers to.
WECF Executive Director Sascha Gabizon announcing the winners at the CEHAPE Award Plenary Session
Nevertheless, half an hour later, – after all countries had welcomed the declaration, – the newly elected Regional Director of Europe, Mrs. Zsuzsanna Jakab asked for acclamation by those member states who supported the declaration. There was no objection registered, and thus, by acclamation, the Parma Declaration has been adopted on March 12th 2010.
WECF on Parma Declaration
WECF believes that the Parma Declaration is a very valuable tool to move policy makers from talk to action. The Declaration spells out 5 concrete time-bound targets, by which the countries commit to achieve concrete improvements for children’s environmental health.
First of all, the most important issue at this conference was that also EECCA region countries recognised in the declaration that asbestos is carcinogenic. In more than 15 countries from the Eastern European, Caucasus, Central Asian and South-Eastern European region, asbestos is the most common building material. Citizens and building workers are not informed that chrysotile asbestos is a potent carcinogen
, and that there is no safe threshold level. More than 45 of the most industrialized nations have entirely banned all forms of asbestos. It is therefore an important step forward, that governments of the EECCA countries agreed to develop national plans to eliminate asbestos related diseases in cooperation with WHO and ILO by 2015.
The Parma Declaration also sets the date of 2015 by which a healthy indoor air environment in children settings
needs to be achieved. Governments could take measures to reduce traffic near schools - as outdoor air pollution is the main source of indoor air pollution. That could be achieved by a law which obliges trucks to use the train on transition routes, such as through the mountains. This is an important target, as it means that guidelines for purchases of school furniture and electronics need to be developed, to assure that these products no longer emit carcinogenic substances such as formaldehyde or pthtalates (plastic softeners). Also, WECF believes that the frequent use of pesticides in and around schools and playgrounds would need to be halted. Also, governments could apply mandatory substitution of hazardous substances in paints, carpets and furniture (as these often emit into the air).
Also, the governments aim at eliminating children’s and pregnant women’s exposure to harmful substances
by 2015. Government’s commit to act on identified risks of exposure to carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxicants, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals. And, the Parma Declaration states that by 2020 children should have healthy and safe environments in which to walk and bike to school and more green spaces to play and exercise.
Many thousands of schools in rural areas of the EECCA region do not have indoor, hygienic toilets, and often lack safe drinking water. In the EU countries, vandalism and unhygienic situations in school toilets are also a real problem. By 2015, all countries commit to achieving safe water and sanitation in schools
and other children settings. WECF strongly welcomes this commitment, as so far, water and sanitation has not been a political priority, and schools have not received sufficient support to address this problem.
The environmental NGOs of the European Eco-Forum, represented by their coordinator Sascha Gabizon, Executive Director of Women in Europe for a Common Future and by the alternate Olga Speranskaya from Eco-Accord Moscow, had actively participated in the lead-up to the conference, and contributed to drafting groups work on the ministerial declaration. CEHAPE Awards Plenary Session