UN Report Urges Global Action to Reduce Growing Chemical Hazards

Published September 12, 2012

Urgent action is needed to reduce the increasing health and environmental hazards from unsustainable chemical management around the world, according to the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP’s) Global Chemicals Outlook report released Sept. 5. The report finds that chemical “intensification” is increasing in the global economy, meaning that synthetic chemicals are becoming the largest components of waste streams and pollution around the world, which is leading to more chemical hazards to humans and the environment. The UNEP study says that poor management of chemicals has caused a major economic burden worldwide and that these costs are paid by social welfare systems or individuals—not by chemical manufacturers or others in the supply chain.

The report concludes that “sound chemicals management must become a national and international environmental, public health, and economic and business development priority” and that governments and industry must coordinate their efforts to reduce health and environmental hazards related to chemicals, ease the economic burden, and help to support a green economy.

UNEP recommends integrating chemicals management into national social and economic plans; increasing producers’, manufacturers’, and importers’ roles in chemical management and policy development; and developing policies that focus on preventing risks and promoting safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals. In addition, UNEP emphasizes the need for financial assistance for developing and emerging countries to help with the costs of chemical and waste management.

View the Global Chemicals Outlook as a PDF.