Global Chemicals Outlook II, 2019

From Legacies to Innovative Solutions: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Global Chemicals Outlook II – From Legacies to Innovative Solutions: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, mandated by the UN Environment Assembly in 2016, seeks to alert policymakers and other stakeholders to the critical role of the sound management of chemicals and waste in sustainable development. It takes stock of global trends as well as progress made and gaps in achieving the global goal to minimize the adverse impacts from chemicals and waste by 2020. The Global Chemicals Outlook II finds that the global goal to minimize adverse impacts of chemicals and waste will not be achieved by 2020. Solutions exist, but more ambitious worldwide action by all stakeholders is urgently required.

Global Chemicals Outlook I, 2013

Towards Sound Management of Chemicals

The Global Chemicals Outlook: Towards Sound Management of Chemicals was published in February 2013 and assembled scientific, technical and socio-economic information on the sound management of chemicals. It covered trends and indicators for chemical production, transport, use and disposal, and associated health and environmental impacts; economic implications of these trends, including costs of inaction and benefits of action; and instruments and approaches for sound management of chemicals. Decision 27/12, adopted by the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme in 2013, recognized the significance of the findings of the Global Chemicals Outlook.


Chemicals are an integral part of modern daily life. There is hardly any industry where chemical substances are not used and there is no single economic sector where chemicals do not play an important role. Millions of people throughout the world lead richer, more productive and more comfortable lives because of the thousands of chemicals on the market today. These chemicals are used in a wide variety of products and processes and, while they are major contributors to national and world economies, their sound management throughout their lifecycle is essential in order to avoid significant and increasingly complex risks to human health and ecosystems and substantial costs to national economies.

Industries producing and using these substances have a significant impact on employment, trade and economic growth worldwide, but the substances can have adverse effects on human health and the environment. A variety of global economic and regulatory forces influence changes in chemical production, transport, import, export, use and disposal over time. In response to the growing demand for chemical-based products and processes, the international chemical industry has grown dramatically since the 1970s. Global chemical output was valued at US$ 171 billion in 1970; by 2010, it had grown to US$ 4.12 trillion.

Many national governments have enacted laws and established institutional structures for managing the hazards of this growing volume of chemicals. Leading corporations have adopted chemical management programmes and there are now many international conventions and institutions for addressing these chemicals globally. However, the increasing complexity of the background mix of chemicals and the ever longer and more intricate chemical supply chain including wastes reveal varied gaps, lapses and inconsistencies in government and international policies and corporate practices. They feed growing international concerns over the threat that poor management of chemicals pose to the health of communities and ecosystems and over the capacity to achieve the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation goal that, by 2020, chemicals will be produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

These concerns are important to all countries but are particularly salient in industrializing economies that face pressing needs to achieve development, national security and poverty eradication objectives. Developing countries and countries with economies in transition can learn lessons from the fragmented sector-by-sector chemical management approaches that have characterized conventional chemicals policies in developed countries. To protect human health and the environment and to fully benefit from the value that chemicals can yield, all countries must include in their economic and social development priorities the means to manage chemicals soundly.

Toxiques légaux, d’Henri Boullier

Comment les firmes chimiques ont mis la main sur le contrôle de leurs produits

Depuis les années 1960, d’ambitieux dispositifs réglementaires promettent de contrôler les produits chimiques auxquels nous sommes exposés quotidiennement. Pourtant, les rares « interdictions » prononcées sont systématiquement assorties de dérogations permettant de continuer à les utiliser. Pourquoi les États semblent-ils incapables de prononcer des décisions fermes ? Comment la commercialisation de substances toxiques est-elle devenue « légale » ?

Ce livre montre comment les grandes entreprises chimiques ont inscrit dans le droit l’impossibilité d’interdire leurs molécules, si toxiques soient-elles. Depuis 2006, le règlement REACH encadre leur commercialisation en Europe. Ce texte promettait de résoudre la méconnaissance des effets de dizaines de milliers de substances présentes sur le marché et d’améliorer leur contrôle. Finalement, les entreprises sont au cœur de la fabrique de l’expertise et les agences publiques se retrouvent à évaluer les risques de produits pour lesquels elles n’ont aucune donnée solide. En suivant la trajectoire de trois molécules dangereuses – un sel métallique, un solvant et un plastifiant –, l’enquête de l’auteur montre comment REACH organise leur maintien sur le marché.

L’histoire retracée dans ce livre est caractéristique de la manière dont certaines grandes réformes contemporaines masquent en fait un désengagement de l’État sans précédent. L’expertise est externalisée, les données fournies sont insuffisantes, les procédures dérogatoires multiples. Les firmes maîtrisent, plus que jamais, les ressorts de cette bureaucratie industrielle.


A policy of pollution prevention is clearly preferable to pollution control

REACH, animal testing, and the precautionary principle

Video published on 21 November 2012, by Dove Medical Press.

Read REACH, animal testing, and the precautionary principle, 10/2017.


REACH, animal testing, and the precautionary principle

In drug, EDCs, chemical safety tests, using one species to represent another simply doesn’t work

Abstract, 2012

Relatively little is known about the toxicity of the many chemicals in existence today. This has prompted European Union regulatory authorities to launch a major chemicals testing program, known as Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). Although the driving force behind REACH is ostensibly based on the precautionary principle, in practice, the evidence suggests that it is oriented more toward risk assessment than precaution. In addition, the test methods used to assess chemical risk also raise questions about the efficacy of REACH in achieving its stated aims of protecting human health and the environment. These tests rely in large part on animal models. However, based on empirical evidence and on well-established principles of evolutionary biology and complex systems, the animal model fails as a predictive modality for humans. In turn, these concerns raise significant ethical and legal issues that must be addressed urgently. Immediate measures should include a major biomonitoring program to reliably assess the chemical burden in European Union citizens as a means of prioritizing the most dangerous substances present in the environment. Blood and urine biomarkers are useful tools with which to implement biomonitoring and to help guide public policy. An ecological paradigm, based on pollution prevention, rather than pollution control and risk assessment of individual chemicals, represents a superior strategy, to prevent global chemical pollution and toxicity risks to human health.

Reference. Image theecologist.