Telling someone they’ve been poisoned in ways that could reshape their DNA and be carried on to their descendants — possibly causing cancer, neurological illness, mental deficiency, birth defects, brain damage and death — isn’t easy. But that’s Michael Stanley-Jones’ job.
As public information officer for the United Nations Environment Programme, he’s tasked with engaging the public with initiatives established during the Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions. While not exactly breakfast-table topics, those gatherings saw world leaders convene to address the dangers of synthetic petrochemicals that saturate our air, soil and water, including the meat and plants we eat.
The World Health Organization reported last year that more than 5 million deaths from exposure to chemicals occur annually — more than 8 percent of all deaths — and most are among children 15 and younger. The United Nations Environment Programme is charged by the conventions with achieving sound management of chemicals and reducing child mortality.