UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics visits UK including Scotland

Date: 7th February 2017
Category: Disability, Basic Health and Welfare

UN expert Baskut Tuncak visited the UK, including Scotland, from the 17th - 31st January to assess the human rights record in relation to the life cycle of hazardous substances and waste. Mr Tuncak's Scotland visit focused on air pollution and its impact on children.

Air pollution

The UN Special Rapporteur highlighted how children and other vulnerable groups continue to be threatened by toxic air at the end of his official visit. Tuncak said that there was "an urgent need for political will by the UK government to make timely, measurable and meaningful interventions" in reducing toxic pollutants in the interest of children being able to achieve the highest attainable standard of health. He also noted that some UK businesses are failing to conduct adequate due diligence on the impact of their activities abroad when it comes to toxic chemicals, pollution and waste. He noted that some British companies have been linked to the sale of untested consumer products that have killed children and young women in South Korea as well as a highly hazardous pesticide, Paraquat, which is prohibited in the UK and approximately 40 other countries.

In relation to Scotland, Tuncak said:

"Long after battles have ended, toxic remnants of war continue to inflict harm and suffering around the world. Like landmines, children are especially vulnerable to the invisible threats of toxic contamination. I was troubled to hear of alleged cases of toxic contamination from UK military activities resulting in diseases among communities. I was pleased to hear that the Ministry of Defense has agreed with Scottish Authorities on a plan to clean up contamination discovered in Dalgety Bay, Scotland, a former military site. I encourage the Ministry to investigate all allegations relating to contamination and provide access to remedy by communities and military service personnel, both at home and abroad, as needed."

Lastly, Tuncak called on the UK to ensure that its leaving the EU does not impact the protection of human rights, stating that Brexit should not be seen as an opportunity for deregulation, and that it could pose "a threat of regression from existing standards of protection."

The final report will be available at the end of the summer.