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The WHO Expert Committee on Vector Biology and Control met in Geneva from 6 to 10 December 1999. Dr Maria Neira, Director, Communicable Disease Control, Prevention and Eradication, opened the meeting on behalf of the Director-General. She noted that the Expert Committee had last considered the chemistry and specifications of pesticides in 1989 (7). Since then, there have been major changes in the approach, methods and means for vector and public health pest control. These include: further integration of vector control into basic health services; assumption of greater responsibility by individuals and communities for personal protection and vector control; improvement in pesticide formulation and application technology and, therefore, availability of safer, more acceptable and more effective pesticide products; and drastic changes in the pattern of use of pesticides by Member States for economic, human and environmental reasons.

Because of the increase in over-the-counter insecticide products for personal protection, greater attention must be given to human and environmental safety, packaging and labelling, and disposal of containers. It is also becoming increasingly important to harmonize, as far as possible, the specifications developed by WHO for public health pesticides with those of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for agricultural pesticides. WHO welcomes continued collaboration with FAO in that regard. However, specifications are developed for particular product uses, and careful attention has to be given to the different requirements of public health and agricultural pesticides.

The Expert Committee was therefore requested to:

— review trends in the use of pesticides (chemicals and formulations) for vector and public health pest control programmes and the development of quality control of pesticide products in the WHO Regions;

— review existing WHO specifications (full and interim) and test methods, and recommend changes; propose interim specifications that could be accepted as full specifications; and identify actions to be taken to upgrade the remaining interim specifications to full status;

— review the current status of specifications being developed for household insecticide products, bacterial larvicides and plant-based pesticides for public health use, and make recommenda tions on the establishment of WHO specifications for such products;

— review international rules/requirements for packaging, marking and storage of pesticides, and recommend actions to achieve the harmonization of international standards; and

— identify and discuss critical factors related to the disposal of unusable pesticides and pesticide containers.

The Expert Committee was requested to provide clear recommendations, in particular in regard to ways in which activities related to the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme (WHOPES) and the technical support provided to Member States could be strengthened.

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