Meeting Report: Threats to Human Health and Environmental Sustainability in the Pacific Basin

By Arnold, Robert G.; Carpenter, David O. et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Meeting Report: Threats to Human Health and Environmental Sustainability in the Pacific Basin


Arnold, Robert G., Carpenter, David O., Kirk, Donald, Koh, David, Armour, Margaret-Ann, Cebrian, Mariano, Cifuentes, Luis, Khwaja, Mahmood, Ling, Bo, Makalinao, Irma, Paz-y-Mino, Cesar, Peralta, Genandrialine, Prasad, Rajendra, Singh, Kirpal, Sly, Peter, Tohyama, Chiharu, Woodward, Alistair, Zheng, Baoshan, Maiden, Todd, Environmental Health Perspectives


Mission of the Pacific Basin Consortium

About 2 billion people live in nations on the Pacific Rim. These include the most populous countries in the world as well as some of the wealthiest and the poorest. As significantly, technical and industrial growth statistics suggest that Pacific Rim nations are in the midst of economic expansions that can both alter regional health risk factors and support measures to protect environmental and human health. Regional interests in this area are best served through cooperation among Pacific Rim nations, acknowledging very significant differences in culture, language, government, religion, development, and wealth.

The primary goal of the Pacific Basin Consortium for Environment and Health Sciences (PBC) is to promote multidisciplinary, multinational efforts to improve regional human and environmental health. Steps toward that goal include recognition of existing health-related problems and the new threats that will accompany rapid regional economic and industrial transitions. This was the theme of the Eleventh International Conference of the Pacific Basin Consortium, held at the East--West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, September 2005 and supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Basic Research Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Over most of its 20-year existence, the PBC has focused on regional hazardous waste issues, emphasizing human health effects, regional cooperation, dissemination of information on new technologies, and assistance for training efforts. Recently this focus was broadened to include important regional environmental issues that extend, to a degree, beyond the hazardous waste field. Those additional areas of emphasis are evident in the PBC conference proceedings, which include sessions devoted to air pollution, climate change, and more. It is assured that hazardous materials and related adverse health effects will remain a central theme of the PBC. Industrialization of Pacific Rim nations ensures that the production, release, and disposal of hazardous substances will produce problems that differ in character and scale from those experienced previously. For example, chemical hazards not previously known in parts of the Pacific Rim will become household words, as they have in parts of the world that have already experienced a full measure of industrial development. The character and scale of air pollution problems are likely to change regionally, and water-related problems will become more acute as competing uses for limited water resources arise.

Difficulties related to the breadth of regional challenges to environmental stability and human health among Pacific Rim nations are reflected, albeit more modestly, in the organization of this present report on the 2005 PBC conference. We have elected to describe both the breadth and depth of conference activities. Our approach is to enumerate perceived threats to regional environmental stability and human health, covering briefly specific aspects of those issues that received attention at the conference. Arsenic management, which was featured at the PBC conference, is described in greater depth, taking advantage of continuity in complementary conference presentations in that area.

Focus of the Conference

Conference sessions were organized around existing or projected threats to sustained growth and environmental quality in the Pacific Basin, with particular focus on human health and hazardous waste. The pace of economic expansion in the Far East, particularly in the fields of industry and manufacturing, is sure to leave a signature on the environment. In China, for example, the management of waste from a relatively new electronics industry, including materials recycling, has resulted in significant exposures of workers and their families, and dwellers proximate to industrial sites to a variety of hazardous chemicals ranging from metals to flame retardants. …

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