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Chemicals

Some 15 or 20 years ago, environmental pollution and chemicals were to all intents and purposes synonymous by virtue of the fact that our waterbodies, soil and air were being polluted by an onslaught of chemical products. Since then, the situation has greatly improved and other environmental concerns have come to the fore.

Significant progress has been made in the chemical industry in terms of emissions and chemical safety. The industry itself is now far more aware of the fact that apart from being a driver of progress, chemicals also pose a threat to human health and the environment. This increased awareness was largely attributable to the adoption of laws requiring that chemicals be investigated and assessed before being placed on the market. Hence the chemical industry is one of the most strictly regulated sectors when it comes environmental protection.

But there’s still work to be done. While cases of acute poisoning have become less frequent, chronic illnesses provoked by chemicals in indoor air, consumer products and food remain a concern. And unfortunately, pesticides – their name notwithstanding – affect not only pests but also non-pests, whereby examples of this phenomenon abound. The decline in farmland biodiversity is largely attributable to the fact that pesticides are a death knoll for the forage of many animal species.

Biocides from facade plaster and boat paint are harmful to water. And while pharmaceutical drugs help keep both humans, farm animals and pets healthy, the residues they leave in our soil and water can be detrimental to the organisms that live there. Also, new risks and threats are becoming a cause of great concern: Minute concentrations of hormones from various chemical substances are reprotoxic for both plants and animals. Persistent non-biodegradable inputs accumulate in ecosystems and living organisms. New investigation methods are needed in order to investigate the properties of nanomaterials. And finally, these kinds of toxic substances have an environmental impact not singly, but rather collectively and often cumulatively as well.

Chemical safety is a major cause for concern nowadays in Europe and around the world. In the interest of strengthening domestic markets and cutting costs, the EU has been gradually replacing national approval and assessment procedures with European ones. But this of course does not absolve the member states from meeting their responsibilities, for they are still required to take on the key assessment, management and monitoring tasks. As the leading chemical producer in Europe and number four worldwide, Germany has a particular stewardship responsibility in this domain. Moreover, the steady growth in international trade calls for worldwide measures; for many problems that once afflicted Europe such as DDT toxicity and dioxin and furan emissions remain unresolved elsewhere. And while some progress has been made, we are far from achieving sustainable chemicals policies.

First OECD Test Guideline on the investigation of nanomaterials

Nano structures

The OECD Test Guideline No. 318 features the very first standardized test method particular for nanomaterials adopted by OECD. It is one important component needed for the adaptation of nanospecific requirements for environmental risk assessment applied within legislations on chemical safety. read more

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Chemicals in articles: EU LIFE Projekt AskREACH started

Ein Barcode auf einem Produkt wir mit einem Smartphone gescannt

Certain substances are harmful to man and the environment. The AskREACH project will raise awareness on Substances of Very High Concern in articles among the European population, retailers and industry. Consumers can use a smartphone app to get information on such substances or send requests for information to suppliers. The European Chemicals Regulation REACH provides the legal framework. read more

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Chemical law: REACH could increase safety of imported articles

Two women lying on a mat at a sports centre with gymnastic balls and barbells

The EU might introduce an authorization scheme for imported goods such as clothing, sports gear and toys in the REACH Regulation, to aim at a better protection of humans and the environment against Substances of Very High Concern in articles. An UBA study claims that the necessary amendment of the EU chemicals regulation REACH would not breach international trade law. read more

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Sandoz chemical spill, 30 years onward: Salmon have returned to the Rhine

Ein breiter, ruhiger Fluss. Rechts und links viel grüne Natur mit Bäumen.

The condition of Germany's rivers continues to improve. The Rhine and many other rivers have many more fish species than 30 years ago. Salmon – once virtually wiped out – are once again at home in German waters. Some stretches of the Danube have “good” to “very good” ecological status, rating best among all Germany’s rivers. There is still a need for action along the Weser and Ems rivers. read more

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The Umweltbundesamt

For our environment