Forum to Debate Critical Health and Environmental Issues

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHighly topical issues, including the risks posed by microplastics, endocrine disruptors and nanomaterials to human health and the environment, will be probed at the upcoming Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF 2018), being held from June 14 and 15 at the Messukeskus in Helsinki, Finland.

The two-day forum includes four expert panels.

A panel hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will discuss the promotion of chemical safety in developing countries. The gap in regulatory risk management between OECD countries and developing nations is growing. Notwithstanding, much of the chemical industry has moved from OECD countries to developing economies, primarily to Asia. The SAICM process that the UNEP promotes is supporting developing countries to start their own chemicals risk management. The panel will include experts from Argentina, Sweden, China and UNEP, as well as from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development EBRD.

At a panel hosted by the OECD, the focus will be on the prioritization of chemicals. The wider distribution of information on chemicals and the international harmonization of regulation are increasingly important. Each regulatory authority wants to identify and reduce the risks from the most harmful chemicals but questions have been raised as to whether countries can cooperate and learn more from each other. The panel will include experts from the US, Brazil, Sweden and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

Endocrine disruptors have been discussed in the public sphere for some two decades. Much research has been conducted on this category of harmful substances, and some legislation has advanced taking advantage of scientific results. Despite this, many parties feel the status quo is not acceptable. In addition, this type of chemical also presents a great challenge to risk communication. HCF organizers have assembled an exciting line-up of policymakers and influencers from the European Commission and Parliament, media, NGOs as well as industry representatives and researchers to probe the critical issues connected with endocrine disruptors.

Microplastics are becoming more topical as evidence builds up that they are polluting rivers and oceans around the world. They result from both the fragmentation of plastic waste into smaller particles as well as from intentionally produced microscopic plastics. The current definitions and regulations on the issue are inadequate. Many countries and international organizations are now monitoring the problem. Research is also underway on the risks posed by microplastics entering the human body. Panel members from Europe, the US and Australia will provide an extensive global snapshot of the problem, and of regulation requirements and models.

The final section of the forum will be a debate on nanomaterials. This issue has been a difficult area for legislators to handle. The forum will challenge debaters to consider the management of risks caused by nanomaterials, by means beyond legislation. A representative of an international NGO from Europe and a representative of the industry from the US will debate the issue. The debate will be moderated by an Australian expert with experience of both industry and research in the field.

Since it launched over a decade ago, the Helsinki Chemicals Forum has grown into the leading international event in chemical safety. The Forum is bringing a rising number of world-leading experts in the sector to Helsinki each year. The presentations and conclusions of the Forum are compiled into a Conference Report to assist decision-makers. The objective of the forum is the global development and harmonization of legislation on chemical safety, and the distribution of information within the field.

Program and registration details for the Helsinki Chemicals Forum 2018 are available at

Posted by Leslie Burt