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Chemicals in the spotlight

Posted 04/06/2013 by sevans

The effects of chemicals on our health and well-being are in the spotlight once again, with the publication this week of a new report on Environment and human health. A joint publication by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the report points out that, globally, sales of products from the chemicals sector doubled between 2000 and 2009, with an increasing range of chemicals on the marketplace. These chemicals include substances that affect human health.

Evidence of the detrimental effects of chemicals on health is clear to see. According to studies on the contribution of air pollution to cancer, heart disease, bronchitis and asthma, air pollution alone is estimated to reduce each EU citizen's life expectancy by an average of 8.5 months, the report says. Recent studies of exposure to air pollution in early life, meanwhile, show how they can significantly affect adult health, and particularly during pregnancy when the effects may be may be comparable to passive smoking. Up to 95% of city dwellers are still exposed to levels of fine particulate matter above World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, the report says.

And there is also growing concern about endocrine disrupting chemicals that affect animal hormones, which are found in products including pharmaceuticals, pesticides and cosmetics. While their effects are not yet fully understood, the report notes that these chemicals may contribute to declining sperm count, genital malformation, impaired neural development, obesity and cancer.

Pharmaceutical residues, including endocrine disruptors, in water are yet another concern pinpointed in the study.

Despite all of the bad publicity for chemicals, however, there are some positive messages. Europeans live longer and healthier lives than in the past, partly thanks to stringent environmental policies that have reduce our exposure to contaminants in air, water and food, the report states. As lifespans increase, meanwhile, the main causes of premature death and disability have become lifestyle-related conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. By adopting healthier lifestyles, there is much that we can do to improve outcomes.

Finally, while many chemicals may have a detrimental impact on health and well-being, many others – notably pharmaceuticals – are delivering real and lasting benefits, both for our health and quality of life. 

A copy of the report is available here.

Cath O’Driscoll – Deputy editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    21/06/2013 09:40

    Lots of great information here. Thanks for tkaing the time to educate the public on a wide variety of roof cleaning products and procedures. Excellent stuff, keep up the great work.