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Manufactured chemicals play a key role in the provision of a large range of goods and services that support our lifestyles and economies. However, even small amounts of some chemicals can endanger human health and the environment. With increasing quantities of such chemicals in the environment and improved scientific understanding of their effects on people and ecosystems, the challenge is to find the right balance between the benefits and risks of chemicals.

Human ingenuity has produced well over 100 000 new chemicals — substances which have never before been part of the terrestrial environment.

Some, such as substances containing heavy metals and 'persistent organic pollutants', have been known to be dangerous for many years already, while fears have been raised about many others recently. For most of these chemicals, however, we simply do not know how they pass through the environment, whether they are accumulated, dispersed or transformed, and how they affect living organisms at different concentrations.

We do know that emissions of many chemicals, known to be dangerous, have dropped, but that there are many areas where their concentrations in the environment are still too high. We also know that Europe's chemical industry is growing faster than the economy as a whole, increasing the flow of chemicals through Europe's economy. Initiatives aimed at reducing this flow must span the entire chain: the primary producers in the chemicals industry, all sectors of industry, individual consumers, the waste disposal sector, and more.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100