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Chemicals everywhere (From Emile KAHOUN, Lycee Yadega)

Chemicals have long been part of everyday existence, from agriculture and industry to prevention and control of diseases. While so often of inestimable benefit, they can also, if misused, damage both health and environment.
Exposure to chemicals varies largely, from high concentration of short duration affecting groups of workers to entire populations subjected to continued low levels. The cumulative effects depend on the degree and duration of this exposure and the kind of substances causing it. People react differently. Some are markedly less resistant than others, such as pregnant women, infants and young children, the elderly, the malnourished and the chronically ill.
While awareness of such treats is steadily spreading, politicians, administrators and managers remain, for the most part, far from adequately informed. The same applies, even more so to the public at large in many countries, particularly where toxic chemicals in agriculture are concerned. Major chemical disorders, filing the headlines have served top further this awareness. Over the past two decades, hundreds of accidental discharges at chemical plants and spills due to accidents in transport have polluted the immediate surroundings with sometimes catastrophic effects on local populations. More and more of these are occurring in developing countries, ill equipped to cope with them. Inadvertent discharges and irresponsible, sometimes totally unscrupulous dumping of hazardous waste is not the sole problem. Up to half a million people die annually in developing countries through accidental poisoning by chemicals, pesticides in particular, and natural toxins.
Through international efforts, countries have to be helped in acquiring essential knowledge of what the harm chemicals can do when incorrectly applied. They have to be advised, also, on drawing up laws and regulations for handling, use and disposal, as well as enforcement, inspection measure and accident contingencies plans.

Adapted from Our Planet, Our Health, By The World Health Organisation.


1) What positive role do chemicals play in man's life according to the text? (4 marks)
2) Explain in your own words the dangers related to chemicals for man and his environment. (4 marks)
3) How did people become aware of the harmful effects of chemicals? (4 marks)
4) If you were a decision maker, what would you do in order to eradicate, if not limit the drawbacks caused by the use of chemicals? (8 marks)
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