UN calls for more controls on chemicals

15th October 2012

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Resource extraction ,
  • Manufacturing ,
  • Prevention & Control



Coordinated action by governments and industry is needed urgently to reduce the growing risks to human health and the environment posed by the unsustainable management of chemicals, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Its latest Global chemicals outlook warns that risks are being exacerbated by the shift in the creation, use and disposal of chemical products from developed countries to emerging economies, where safeguards and regulations are often weaker.

“The gains that chemicals can provide must not come at the expense of human health and the environment,” said UNEP executive director, Achim Steiner. “Pollution and disease related to the unsustainable use, production and disposal of chemicals can, in fact, hinder progress towards key development targets by affecting water supplies, food security, wellbeing or worker productivity.

“Reducing hazards and improving chemicals management – at all stages of the supply chain – is an essential component of the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and inclusive green economy.”

The UNEP predicts that global chemical sales will increase by around 3% a year until 2050, and warns that synthetic chemicals are fast becoming the largest constituents of waste streams and pollution around the world, thereby increasing the exposure of humans and habitats to chemical hazards.

The key environmental concerns from the growing use of chemicals include pesticide and fertilizer contamination of rivers and lakes, heavy metal pollution associated with cement and textile production, and dioxin contamination from mining.

Run-off from fertilizers and pesticides is contributing to a growing number of oxygen-poor “dead zones” in coastal waters, says UNEP, which reported earlier this year that only 13 of the world’s 169 coastal dead zones were recovering.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

A social conscience

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

While biodiversity net gain is now making inroads, marine net gain is still in its infancy. Ed Walker explores the balance between enabling development and safeguarding our marine environment

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

Sarah Spencer on the clear case for stronger partnerships between farmers and renewable energy developers

6th June 2024

Read more

Groundbreaking legislation on air and noise pollution and measures to tackle growing concerns over disposable vapes provide the focus for Neil Howe’s environmental legislation update

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close