People around the world are exposed to toxic substances linked to certain cancers, reproductive impairment, respiratory diseases, diabetes and neurodevelopmental harm, among other adverse health effects. Children are at greatest risk. Pediatricians describe a number of children today as born “pre-polluted.” A silent pandemic of disease, disability and premature death is now widespread around the world, in significant part due to childhood exposure to toxic substances during sensitive periods of development. People living in poverty, indigenous peoples, women, workers, migrants and minorities are also more vulnerable to exposures and associated violations of their rights to life, health, food, water, just work conditions, and a healthy environment.
Baskut Tuncak, United Nations Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes (i.e. toxics) discusses why and how toxic exposures can violate human rights, the activities and priorities of the U.N. mandate, and select case studies.