Toward a Global Understanding of Chemical Pollution: A First Comprehensive Analysis of National and Regional Chemical Inventories

Environ Sci Technol. 2020 Mar 3;54(5):2575-2584. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.9b06379. Epub 2020 Feb 14.


Chemicals, while bringing benefits to society, may be released during their lifecycles and possibly cause harm to humans and ecosystems. Chemical pollution has been mentioned as one of the planetary boundaries within which humanity can safely operate, but is not comprehensively understood. Here, 22 chemical inventories from 19 countries and regions are analyzed to achieve a first comprehensive overview of chemicals on the market as an essential first step toward a global understanding of chemical pollution. Over 350 000 chemicals and mixtures of chemicals have been registered for production and use, up to three times as many as previously estimated and with substantial differences across countries/regions. A noteworthy finding is that the identities of many chemicals remain publicly unknown because they are claimed as confidential (over 50 000) or ambiguously described (up to 70 000). Coordinated efforts by all stakeholders including scientists from different disciplines are urgently needed, with (new) areas of interest and opportunities highlighted here.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Pollution*
  • Humans