Pesticides are used because of their toxic properties towards target species. The development and application of pesticides is arguably one of the most important examples of chemical use in the history of mankind. Unprecedented gains have been achieved through the application of pesticides in controlling disease vectors and agricultural pests. However, pesticides cause harm to non-target species. The mode of action which makes them effective pesticides also makes them hazardous to humans and / or the environment, often in subtle ways. It is important to understand associated risks and to limit use of these substances to necessary situations and limit potential damage to human health and the environment.
UN Environment Chemicals and Health Branch collaborates closely with other Intergovernmental Organizations and Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEA) Secretariats in promoting sound management of pesticides, which includes integrated pest management (IPM) and integrated vector management (IVM). Both IPM and IVM approaches build on several control options and using pesticides as a last resort and are recommended in the reduction / elimination of persistent organic pollutant (POP) pesticides covered under the Stockholm Convention.
The Chemicals and Health Branch actively promotes sound management of chemicals within the framework of Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). Pesticides are probably the group of substances for which the international community has advanced the most in this area. With SAICM work is now accelerated and cooperation with other agencies intensified.
In 2011, UN Environment established the Scientific Expert Group on Chemicals and the Environment (SECE) to provide scientific advice and guidance on environmental issues linked to the sound management of chemicals.\