United Nations System-Wide

Chemicals (IRPTC)
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Chemicals (formerly IRPTC) is the focus for all activities undertaken by UNEP to ensure the globally sound management of hazardous chemicals. It is built upon the solid technical foundation of the International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC), and aims to promote chemicals safety by providing countries with access to information on toxic chemicals, facilitate or catalyse global actions to reduce or eliminate chemicals risks and to assist countries in building their capacities for safe production, use and disposal of hazardous chemicals.

See check list in annex.


Data Collection, Observation, Monitoring

Data is collected on diskette using the IRPTC Database PC system for data entry module; by questionnaire on notification of control actions to ban or severely restrict chemicals; by data transfer from other organizations, e.g. OECD, the Commission of the European Union (CEU), the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS); by data contributors by national regulatory sources via, hardcopy worksheets or diskettes; by connecting to databases on different topics of chemical management.

Data comes from transfer from OECD for the processing and joint publication of the Screening Information Data Sets (SIDS) for High Production Volume (HPV) existing Chemicals; from the CEU; from the European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology (ECETOC); from other international organizations and bodies; contribution of validated datasets from countries and their regulatory institutions; Chemical associations, NGOs and chemical industry.
    For the Prior Informed Consent (PIC): Governments that participate in the implementation of the PIC procedure under the amended London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International Trade submit regulatory information on chemicals that are banned or severely restricted by Government action as well as import response decision on such chemicals to UNEP Chemicals and FAO.

Data gathered as defined by Chapter 19 "Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals", Programme Areas A, C, E and F; Identifiers, production/trade, use, pathways, concentrations, environmental fate, mammalian toxicity, special toxicity tests (carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, reproduction and teratogenicity), aquatic and terrestrial toxicity, sampling analysis, spills, treatment of poisoning, waste management and legal mechanisms.
    For the PIC procedure: Information on Regulatory control actions taken to ban or severely restrict chemicals; the health and environmental reasons for actions taken; summary of toxicological and environmental characteristics; known usage; possible exposure routes and measures to reduce exposure; information on possible alternatives to action taken; decision on future import of specific PIC-chemicals.

UNEP Chemicals co-operates and co-ordinates with many UN agencies and other international institutions to fulfil its mandate to disseminate and enhance the exchange of information on chemical data and management. In this connection, the IPCS (UNEP, ILO, WHO) in particular is an area where UNEP Chemicals participates actively in the work providing validated data and information necessary for assessment of risks posed by chemicals and to accelerate international hazard assessment of chemicals.
    UNEP Chemicals also works closely with the OECD in processing and dissemination of Screening Information Data Sets (SIDS) especially to developing countries. UNEP Chemicals co-operates with the ECETOC in order to identify, publish and disseminate international and national inventories of critical reviews on chemicals that can be used to prepare internationally agreed risk assessment reports.
    PIC implementation procedure: UNEP Chemicals is co-operating with FAO in the collection of data of notifications of Governmental control actions to ban or severely restrict pesticides and industrial chemicals, as well as data on countries import responses and creating a joint database for such information. This activity is carried out through the FAO/UNEP Joint Programme on Implementation of PIC under the amended London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International Trade (1989) and the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (1989).
    Furthermore, UNEP Chemicals co-operates with selected countries and international organizations for data collection on legal regulations legislation on chemicals. UNEP Chemicals is also establishing a Meta-database in co-operation with other network partners. This Meta-database is an information system containing data on data-generation activities on chemicals. It is intended to be the tool to screen and filter information on chemical information.

Methodologies, Quality Control, Harmonization
For indicators, there is co-operation with ILO and WHO within IPCS on Data Quality Indicators (DQIs) of databases and banks on chemicals.
Production of validated data sets for selected priority chemicals based on PIC and IPCS priority lists used for risk assessment.
OECD/SIDS and European ECETOC data integrated in connection with UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Database for world-wide dissemination.
Reduction of computer operational costs by the use of newly developed database interface. Information sources and data relevant for chemical risk management are linked in an electronic network using INTERNET.
Effective and easy access to import decisions and Decision Guidance Documents (DGDs) via hardcopies and electronic means ensured for all participating countries in the PIC implementation procedure.
Production of new updates of the UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Legal File and dissemination in hardcopy and electronic versionworld-wide.

Existing standardization methods are used for: environmental species; toxic effects; bibliographic data according to CODEN by CASSI from the Chemical Abstract Service, ISO codes for countries; chemical nomenclature. UNEP Chemicals has conducted a successful project to standardize its Database's data elements to UN EDIFACT/ISO standards.

Quality control exists by controlled vocabulary developed by UNEP Chemicals and its co-operating and network partners.

Harmonization is being implemented by: harmonized use of nomenclature on chemical substances; UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Data Documentation Rules; Legal File Instruction Rules.

In other methodological areas, UNEP Chemicals developed a methodology for treatment and disposal of hazardous chemical waste.

Assessment and Analysis
With reference to Chapter 19: UNEP Chemicals is presently developing a concept for a National Chemical Information System (NCIS); and is exploring the standardization of chemical information on Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) formats according to UN EDIFACT procedures. Assessment and analysis referring to the PIC procedure is carried out by the FAO/UNEP Joint Programme on PIC.

Co-operation on EDI has been strengthened with UNECE as it is responsible for UN EDIFACT procedure. UNEP Chemicals was working with IPCS to collect data and validate them through Scientific Advisory Panels in order to accelerate international hazard assessments of chemicals. It also co-operates with OECD in fulfilling the mandate to disseminate the Screening Information Data Sets (SIDS) to all countries. UNEP Chemicals was also assisted by the Netherlands (RIVM-University of Wageningen), Germany (UBA) and Japan (MITI), on data collection projects. The US-EPA also assisted UNEP Chemicals on the Database Redesign project.

Analysis of all UNEP Chemicals fields as to whether they conform to the standards of the EDI; reading scientific literature, extracting data, and application of validation criteria.


UNEP Chemicals has been involved in modelling of its Databases and computer application; UNEP Chemicals Data Processing has been conducted following models using MERISE methodology; conceptual model of data; conceptual model of processes; logical model of data (relational model); organizational model of processes.

Expert Systems/Decision-support systems
UNEP Chemicals tested and is now using the Dutch "Users-Model" for application in hazard assessment decisions on chemicals in developing countries. It also investigated object oriented database management systems (OODBMS) as well as expert systems namely to be used for waste management and disposal.

Early Warning Mechanisms
Although UNEP Chemicals does not operate an early warning system as such, it cooperates with the UN OCHA in identifying sources of information useful to responding to chemical emergencies. It also cooperates with UNEP Industry and Environment to encourage countries and regions to establish national systems for emergency preparedness and response including training of personnel. As a result, a wider recognition has been achieved at government and industry levels of the importance of accident prevention preparedness-response and including these parameters in planning chemical industrial developments.

Reports/Information dissemination

Information is distributed using UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Data Profiles prepared from printout of the UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Database (PC-version); printout of DGDs of PIC Database; hardcopy publication.
    The Database which is available in PC version and contains extensive safety data on over 8000 chemicals has been distributed to 130 countries and other network partners free of charge. It has also been distributed during regional and sub-regional training workshops. These users can further disseminate the PC Database, provided they inform UNEP Chemicals. Further distribution for private sector, industry, NGOs, etc., is upon request to UNEP Chemicals. The UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Legal Files are distributed to all Governments and network partners, available on sale from UN publications offices and accessible on-line via ECDIN in host DIMDI, Cologne, Germany. Different UNEP Chemicals hardcopy publications are distributed to all Government and network partners and also disseminated by other UNEP Regional Offices. INTERNET and hardcopy information clearinghouses on chemical hazard, Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR), Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and PIC, published inventories of information sources covering international data sources on chemicals, critical reviews of chemicals, INTERNET guide and UNEP Chemicals. Newsletters are now available world-wide through UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) websites, accessible via home pages. UNEP Chemicals query-response service takes action on as many as 600 governments and other requests for assistance on chemicals information annually. On-line access to most of UNEP Chemicals publications is also planned (only if resources permit).

The documents are used by all countries (Governments, National Decision-Makers and experts) in the field of chemical safety; national institutions and centres; international and inter-governmental organizations; non-governmental organizations (NGOs); chemical associations and chemical industry at national and international levels; Academia and individuals upon request.

Coordination of information/dissemination is by chemicals data exchange procedures. UNEP Regional Offices and units through capacity building and training programmes: Agreements with the CEU and ECETOC; OECD via 1991 OECD Council Decision-Recommendations; Information and data on PIC through a Memorandum of Understanding with FAO.

PAHO Peru (centre); ROLAC (centre); ECDIN (on-line); UNEP Regional Offices; other regional, sub-regional and national centres act as network partners and information brokers to disseminate the PC Database and other UNEP Chemicals publications.

Guides to data possessed include UNEP Chemicals meta-databases on information sources for chemical management; UNEP Chemicals/INFOTERRA Directory on Chemical Safety-Information Sources; Inventory of Information Sources on Chemicals-Intergovernmental Organizations; Inventory of Critical Reviews on Chemicals (ICRC); INTERNET Guide-finding information on chemicals; UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Legal File 1994 - International Environmental Guidelines and Global Conventions Concerning Chemical Substances; UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Legal File, 1994-95 - Regulations and Guidelines on Pesticides; UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) Catalogue of Documents.

A project on a Global Information Network on Chemicals (GINC) is being implemented to promote information usage within the framework of IPCS and participation of the Japanese Government. It will be the first of its kind on establishment of a computerized and institutionalized network linking chemical safety information providers and users. Training programmes for government experts on the issue of UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Database in hazard assessment decisions; concept of establishment of National Information System/Centres. UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) websites, access via home pages on IRPTC, PIC, PRTRs and POPs.

The following UNEP Chemicals publications are meant primarily for the governments' decision-makers: UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Legal Files; Screening Information Data Sets (SIDS); Inventory of Critical Reviews on Chemicals (ICRC). UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) PC Database contains specific data for decision-makers on: summary evaluations of toxicological and ecotoxicological data, waste management file, legal file. The PIC Database and the DGDs developed under PIC implementation procedure summarize the available information for an instant review on the characteristics of industrial chemicals and pesticides. They are meant particularly for decision-makers in the management of chemicals. They must however be supplemented with country specific information to ensure an informed decision based on conditions in the country taking the decision to control the chemical. INTERNET: UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) websites - home pages on PIC, POPs and PRTRs.

Network Development and Support
UNEP Chemicals maintains institutional and electronic networks. Institutional networks: Network of National Correspondent as of 1 January 1997 - 29 Governments; Data Contributing Network Partners: several countries, inter-governmental and international organizations contribute validated data; Network of Designated National Authorities (DNAs) who are responsible for the implementation at a national level of the PIC procedure - by 1 January 1997 - 154 countries have nominated one or more DNAs. Electronic Network: UNEP Chemicals prepared many home pages for key areas (PIC, POPs, PRTRs) via INTERNET websites. Other information and data will also be put on the INTERNET, including the Database, SIDS and UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) Newsletter.

To coordinate the respective networks UNEP Chemicals is developing a project with WHO, ILO and the Government of Japan to establish GINC. The network of National Correspondents and the DNAs are being co-ordinated with other international networks related to chemical management.

UNEP Chemicals is negotiating with UNEP (ROLAC) on establishing regional networks in Latin America and the Caribbean; also negotiations are going on with WHO on the Global Environment Library Network (GELNET). Information exchange and dissemination through a unique network and unified query response service and reporting procedures are urgently needed for sustainable management of chemicals.

The UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC) database PC version including the IRPTC Legal Files is actively used by Governments, NGOs, industry and other partners in 110 countries for making hazard assessment decisions. Assistance to Governments to build the administrative infrastructure for PIC decision-making in the process of the PIC implementing procedure. National Registers (Information Centres) of chemicals were initiated in about 20 countries to assist them in improving their national legislation and decision-making for chemical management.

Using an analysis of countries priorities for data and information on management of chemicals, UNEP Chemicals focused its training programmes on strengthening the capacities of countries to handle chemicals management-related issues and policy. The specific aim of these training programmes are to provide countries with information, tools and methodologies, technical assistance to strengthen the countries national chemicals management systems.
    UNEP Chemicals capacity building programme and activities implemented in Developing Countries and countries with economies in transition include:
- Regional/sub-regional Workshops and training on the Implementation of the PIC procedure and other aspects of chemicals management. These workshops organized for government officials and experts from relevant institutions are organised in collaboration with UNITAR and FAO.
-  Assistance on the establishment of National Information Centres/Systems and regional networks for information exchange - 20 countries participated in either the pilot training programme or projects to establish or initiate plans to build a national system. To date, pilot training programmes are now undertaken in several countries, e.g. in Guinea a programme to establish a National Chemical Information System is already initiated. A similar pilot study programme is being prepared for the Czech Republic and Kenya.
- Regional/sub-regional Training Workshops for Users of the IRPTC PC Database: More than 60 countries have already benefited from these specialized seminars which features training on the installation and use of the chemicals database system. The IRPTC PC database contains over 100,000 records on several thousand priority chemicals, use, environmental and health effects, waste disposal and legislation.
- Capacity building programme initiated for countries with economies in transition in 1992, continues to develop capacities and capabilities for chemicals management in the region, with current emphasis on further strengthening national information systems, national chemicals legislation and improvement of use of hazards and risk assessment methodologies. Development of training material, guidance documents and publications on various aspects of chemicals management and dissemination world-wide.
- Promotion of UNEP information, sources and material that can benefit government experts and decision-makers to enhance capacity building in their countries.

The obstacle for assessment of risks posed by Chemicals is the lack of a minimal set of data for many chemicals and pesticides especially for environmental fate data in different zones. For many hazardous chemicals and pesticides (especially those that have been banned or severely restricted in one or more countries) no acceptable alternatives exist. Also information on alternatives is difficult to obtain. It is difficult for many national authorities, especially developing countries and countries with economies in transition, to evaluate and decide on effective risk management options under these circumstances. The networks of National Correspondents, the DNAs under the PIC procedure and other partners could be exploited better as data sources of information for filling data gaps.

Internet Access


Responsible Office/Person (for inquiries or follow-up):
James B. Willis
UNEP/Chemicals (IRPTC)
15 chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine
Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: +4122 917 8183
Fax: +4122 797 3460

Date of preparation: February 1997, address updated March 1999

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ORGANIZATION:Chemicals (IRPTC): United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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