The world’s largest producer of synthetic chemicals has published a report showing that the most-used chemicals in the global chemical industry are the most deadly.
The report, released by the World Health Organisation, says that while the most widely used chemical is a carcinogen, there is a ‘lack of information’ on the toxicities of other compounds.
The UK government has pledged to introduce a national action plan on the issue, but the chemical industry’s biggest trade group said it would remain ‘sensitive’ to the findings.
‘As we know, there are thousands of chemicals and toxicants on the market, which is why it is so important that we make the best possible use of them,’ said Dr Michael E. O’Sullivan, director of the British Chemistry Council, in a statement.
‘There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ chemicals and they are the key to making our industry sustainable.’
The chemicals included in the report are widely used in plastics, fertilisers, paints, paints and chemicals used in the manufacture of electronics.
‘The world is currently experiencing a global crisis in chemical use,’ the WHO report said.
‘It has been exacerbated by a number of events such as the Ebola virus pandemic, the rise of new, indiscriminate and potentially harmful chemical agents, and the emergence of new toxicants in the environment.
‘More than 100 chemicals were added to the global list of most toxicants during 2014-2020.
‘Although some of these are highly toxic, the use of chemicals in a wide range of applications and industries is now under increasing scrutiny, and these are some of the most common chemicals that have emerged as major threats to human health.’
‘Chemicals are increasingly being deployed in a variety of products, including food and cosmetics, but their use in the chemical sector is increasingly being under scrutiny.’
The World Health Organization has published an urgent warning that the ‘urgent need to act’ was to ‘act swiftly and decisively’ to halt the use and production of chemicals that are known to cause cancer, birth defects and other health problems.