needed because of the complexity of the societal problems; and in order to begin to address these issues, we are going to need input from all stakeholders.
During the workshop, the Roundtable members, speakers, and participants focused some of their attention on the complexity of the management of chemicals. Each stakeholder group echoed the need for a sound management system, but the discussion focused on the details of the current and proposed systems for managing the use of chemicals in commerce. The challenge for any government entity is that over 70,000 chemicals are in use today. Understanding the potential health and environmental effects is a challenge for a developed country and not possible for developing countries that lack financial resources.
As one speaker noted, regulations can spawn innovation. Thus it is clear that regulations are an important and necessary part of the plan to improve environmental health. However, regulations are only one part of the picture. There are many limitations to relying solely on governments and regulations. First, governments are limited to their own jurisdiction. On an international arena, there is reliance on treaties and agreements, but they are often difficult to enforce. Second, many governments lack the resources to continue to make gains in environmental health. Developing countries often do not have a stable government or tax base. Even developed countries have competing interest for the tax funding that makes funding of health projects infeasible. Finally, regulations take time to implement and do not incentivize companies to exceed the regulatory standards.
This is especially true for the business community which has a global reach that transcends political boundaries. In this workshop, the Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine looked at some of the programs and challenges for engaging industry through the shareholders’ call for social responsibility.
This summary captures the presentations and discussions of the workshop. The views expressed in this report are those of individual speakers and participants, and do not necessary reflect the views of the Institute of Medicine, the members of the Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine, or the sponsors of this activity.
Paul G. Rogers