On January 20, 2020, a consortium of scientists and regulators published a study in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) that analyzed 22 chemical inventories from across 19 countries and regions to “achieve a first comprehensive overview of chemicals on the market as an essential first step toward a global understanding of chemical pollution.” The analysis determined that over 350,000 chemicals and chemical mixtures have been registered for production and use, which is three times as many as previous estimations have reported. Significant portions of the chemicals were also found to be non-identifiable due to being claimed as confidential business information (up to 50,000 chemicals) or ambiguously described (up to 70,000 chemicals).
The study points out that the actual numbers of chemicals on the global market could be even higher due to several limitations in existing global inventories, including a total lack of inventories from multiple regions, a strong focus on industrial chemicals, and reporting thresholds based on volumes produced. In response, the authors call for a coordinated effort from stakeholders including scientists to address challenges related to missing inventory data and unclear chemical identities, as well as a better understanding of global chemical pollution.
Lead author Zhanyun Wang from ETH Zurich told Chemical & Engineering News that the new study “flags that researchers and governments need to work together with more resources to responsibly manage chemicals.” The researchers are planning to make the full database publicly available following the creation of a simpler user interface.
Janet Pelley (February 12, 2020). “Number of chemicals in commerce has been vastly underestimated.” Chemical & Engineering News
Jamie Durrani (February 18, 2020). “Number of industrial chemicals being produced globally grossly underestimated.” Chemistry World
Andrew Turley (May 19, 2020). “Three times more chemicals on the global market than thought, scientists say.” Chemical Watch
Wang Z. et. al. (January 22, 2020) “Toward a Global Understanding of Chemical Pollution: A First Comprehensive Analysis of National and Regional Chemical Inventories.” Environmental Science and Technology; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b06379