Chemicals and Health

Chemicals and Health

Chemicals and Health

Chemicals are a part of many everyday products and through their ubiquity in products; wastes will often be detected in the environment. Because of this, chemicals pose a potential threat to human health and the environment. As the production of chemicals and their products continue to increase around the world, the hazardous properties of those products can also pose an increased risk of exposure and to human health. There are many different pathways for chemical exposure. Since some commonly used products are composed of dangerous chemicals, they can pose direct and indirect risks via wastes (e.g. phthalates and BPA). Industrial emissions, traffic emissions, household emissions and the use of chemicals for agricultural production may result in air pollution, whereas the discharge of wastes into water can result in the contamination of soil, surface water and ground water.

The unsound management of persistent, bio-accumulating chemicals can lead to their bio-magnification within food chains; especially within marine food chains. Seafood products have been found to contain concentrations of fat-soluble chemicals and heavy metals (specifically methyl mercury) even though when very low concentrations of the substance can be found in sea water. The chemical is absorbed by the marine organisms and accumulates within their body tissues.

In most developing countries and emerging economies, the key stakeholders’ capacities aren’t sufficient enough to implement the sound management of toxic or hazardous substances. For example, the unsound use and inadequate control of pesticides for agriculture in the past have led to an increased amount of obsolete pesticides found throughout many countries worldwide which pose risks to human health and the environment.

Depending on their structure and other characteristics, chemicals have different reciprocal properties such as being poisonous, carcinogenic and mutagenic. This can result in various health effects including diseases like cancer, disturbances with the endocrine and reproductive systems, and even in death. However, the intrinsic properties of substances are not the only reasons negatively affecting human health. Other factors negatively affecting human health include the intensity of exposure, the duration of exposure, as well as lifestyle, genetic and physical constitution of the exposed individuals. When dealing with implementing sound chemicals management, the main focus should be based on prevention rather than fixing the adverse effects after they have already happened.

The WHO has identified the ten chemicals posing a major public health concern. Additionally, the scientific knowledge of those substances as well as risk management proposals are presented under the following link


Initiatives / Projects

german cooperationFederal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Developmentsupported by The State Government of North Rhine-Westphalia