Benefits of chemicals control
Preventive chemicals control has economical, social and environmental benefits, and it is a tool for achieving sustainable development.
Chemicals control is necessary for sustainable development
Sustainable development requires sound management of chemicals, and control of chemicals placed on the national (or regional) market is an essential part. Sustainable development cannot be achieved unless chemicals are managed safely. Risks to human health and the environment as well as substantial costs to the national economy may be avoided through the sound management of chemicals. This is acknowledged in Agenda 2030, where most of the sustainable development goals are directly or indirectly linked to sustainable management of chemicals.
Chemicals control saves lives, improves the quality of life and reduces health care costs
People can be exposed to hazardous chemicals at work, in the home and indirectly through the environment. This can lead to early deaths or to irreversible health effects, such as cancer, birth defects and impaired neurodevelopment. It is particularly serious when foetuses and children are exposed, as this can affect their development and, in many ways, impair their prospects in life. Chemicals control saves lives and improves quality of life. It also reduces health care costs.
Chemicals control preserves natural resources
Land and water resources polluted by hazardous chemicals may become unusable for a long time. Pollution can make food sources such as vegetables, fruit, and fish unsuitable for human consumption. Remediation of contaminated land and water is often costly, if possible at all. Chemicals control contributes to reducing the contamination of the biosphere, biota, air, soil and water, and keeps these natural resources available for use by current and future generations.
Chemicals control is cost-effective
Control of chemicals when, or even before, they are placed on the national market will help to reduce health and environmental problems that may otherwise occur later in the lifecycle of the chemical. This approach is often highly cost-effective compared to measures when chemicals are already widely spread in society or the environment. The number of importers and manufacturers that are placing chemicals on the market is usually much smaller than the number of distributors and users further down the supply chain. It is therefore more efficient to enforce legislation regulating the placing of chemicals on the market.
Chemicals control contributes to safer products, uses, methods and technologies
Chemicals control leads to the development of safer products, uses, production methods and technologies. It also contributes to a circular economy, where recycled materials with a known chemical content can become attractive alternatives to virgin materials.
Chemicals control supports good conditions for industry and trade
A clear regulatory framework for chemicals management is an asset for doing business in a country. It makes conditions clear for those who engage in manufacturing or import of chemicals, or who intend to invest or trade in the country. It also facilitates international trade of chemicals.
Further information and resources
As part of the guidance to national chemicals control, developed by the Swedish Chemicals Agency, there is also a short document about chemicals control and its benefits.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) has developed a publication series on chemicals control. Part of this series is an information document about the benefits of chemicals control.
Another document produced by UN Environment is a report on the costs of not having a functioning chemicals control in place, the cost of inaction. The report shows that the costs are significant and provides financial arguments for why countries should introduce chemicals control.
In 2019, UN Environment published the report "Global Chemicals Outlook II – From Legacies to Innovative Solutions: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development". The report highlights the critical role of sound management of chemicals and waste in sustainable development.
Read more about Sustainability and Chemicals, including the relation between chemicals and gender, and chemicals and human rights.
Illustrations by Maja Modén.