Countries will not meet the agreed goal of minimizing the adverse impacts of chemicals and waste by 2020, which means that urgent measures are needed to reduce even greater harm to human health and economies, according to a UN report published today.

The 2nd Global Chemicals Perspectives report, presented at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, concludes that the current chemical production capacity of 2,300 million tons, valued at US$ 5 billion per year, will double by 2030.

Despite commitments to maximize benefits and minimize the impacts of this industry, hazardous chemicals continue to be released into the environment in large quantities. They are omnipresent in the air, water, soil, food, and human beings. To prevent further damage, the world must take advantage of the many existing solutions, which are highlighted in the report.

Water pollution by spilling chemicals into it

Whether the boom in chemical products becomes a positive scenario or a catastrophic one will depend on how we handle this great challenge”, said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of the UN Environment. “what is clear is that we must do much more, and do it together”, he added.

The report concludes that while international treaties and voluntary instruments have reduced the risks of some chemicals and wastes, progress has been uneven and gaps in implementation continue. For example, until 2018, more than 120 countries had not implemented the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that a set of selected chemicals claimed 1.6 million lives in 2016 only, which is probably an underestimate. Additionally, chemical pollution also threatens a range of ecosystem services.

On the contrary, the benefits of the action to minimize the adverse impacts have been estimated in tens of billions of dollars per year.

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