Global Summit on Chemical Safety and Security Opens in Poland

By Paul Walker, Environmental Security and Sustainability Director, Green Cross International

On Monday, April 18, 2016, over 400 government and non-governmental experts from over 40 countries convened at the Targi Kielce conference center in Kielce, Poland for a Global Summit on Chemical Safety and Security organized by the International Centre on Chemical Safety and Security (ICCSS). The summit attendees were welcomed by a large number of dignitaries, including ICCSS President Krzysztof Paturej, Deputy Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Hamid Ali Rao, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins of the US Department of State, Ambassador Hadi Farajvand of Iran, Ambassador Kalimi Mworia from Kenya, Mr. Ireneusz Zyska of the Polish Parliament, Head of Project Coordination for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Kiev Ambassador Vaidotas Verba, Secretary General of the China Federation of Chemical and Petrochemical Industries Mr. Zhao Jungui, and many other key officials from around the globe.

The first day of the three-day summit included six forums on varied subjects – chemical security in Africa, first responders for hazmat (hazardous materials) incidents, disposal of hazardous chemicals, responsible agriculture, chemical security threats, and a large plenary session. All speakers recognized the growing importance of chemical safety and security throughout the life cycle of chemistry, including production, transport, storage, use, and disposal of dangerous chemicals for global environmental protection, public health, and prevention of theft and misuse.

As a member of the ICCSS Programme Committee and Green Cross Director for Environmental Security and Sustainability, Dr. Paul Walker spoke in the afternoon plenary session on the importance of stakeholder involvement, transparency, and inclusiveness in policy-making towards the abolition of chemical weapons and for peaceful uses of chemistry.

Interesting presentations were held on chlorine and ammonia, very common industrial chemicals which may also be misused for terrorist attacks, as illustrated in recent incidents in Syria and Iraq. “Jack Rabbit” trials this past year of chlorine accidents, undertaken by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Chlorine Institute, and others, presented by Frank Reiner and Shannon Fox, demonstrated that a release of five tonnes of liquid chlorine from a railway tank would spread gaseous chlorine clouds ten metres high and up to two kilometers downwind; anyone within 100 meters of such a release would likely be killed (see photo of chlorine video). Gary Smith, President of the Ammonia Safety and Training Institute, also spoke about the flash-burn dangers of ammonia, used globally for fertilizer, food production, and as a non-carbon-based fuel.

OPCW Deputy Director-General Rao underlined the fact that safety and security is central to the peaceful pursuit of chemistry worldwide. It must become “second nature” for government, industry, and the public at large. Mr. Rolf Payet, the Executive Secretary of Chemical Conventions in Geneva, noted that 12.6 million people died in 2012 from unhealthy environments, including toxic wastes, and that electronic waste, for example, would soon surpass 50 million tonnes annually.

The Summit will discuss a final statement drafted by Ambassador Farajvand and Dr. Walker tomorrow, along with more sessions on chemical transportation, partnerships, UNSC Resolution 1540, cybersecurity, trans-border cooperation, chemical security in Ukraine, and regulatory programmes. We will continue to report on the Summit this week, and would urge readers to visit for more information.