The U.N. Environment Program has issued a September 5, 2012, report claiming that current management of chemical risks is unsustainable and that governments and industry should take action urgently. Global Chemicals Outlook: Towards Sound Management of Chemicals, U.N. Environmental Program (GPS Publishing 2012).

According to the report, global production, trade, use, and disposal of chemicals have created an increasing chemical intensification of the economy. The authors suggest that while chemical production and use—both in total volume and total numbers of chemicals—have skyrocketed, knowledge about exposure risks is lagging. In particular, the report highlights the importation and use of chemicals in non-industrialized countries that may lack the regulatory infrastructure to assure safe production, use and disposal of the chemicals.

The report also identifies health and environmental impacts related to chemical use and disposal, describing the effects of chemical exposures as “an increasingly complex challenge.” Asserting that chemical production, use and disposal impose unrecognized but substantial costs and benefits on society and companies, it recommends increasing cooperative efforts to close “gaps, lapses and inconsistencies” in government and international policies and corporate practices. Although the report recognizes ongoing international efforts in connection with chemical safety, it ultimately urges action at the national level.