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A Toxics-Free Future


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Industrial chemicals have a variety of different applications around the world. PCBs, a well-known industrial chemical, bind strongly to soils. where they remain for years or even decades. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals, as well as other negative effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine system.

Industrial Chemicals

Industrial chemicals are chemicals that are developed for use in the industrial processing of chemicals. Some industrial chemicals are only used in industrial production processes while many others are used as ingredients in the commercial products that appear in consumer markets. The class of  industrial chemicals is broad, including: solvents, reactants, lubricants, coatings, dyes, colorants, inks, mastics, stabilizers, plasticizers, fragrances, flame retardants, conductors and insulators. Significant exposures to many of these chemicals can result in harmful effects to people or the environment.

Some industrial chemicals are POPs. The human health effects of industrial chemicals that are POPs can range from mild skin irritation, dizziness and headaches to chronic effects on the immune, reproduction, nervous and endocrine systems. Some industrial POPs are also recognized as cancer causing agents. All share the common POPs characteristics, they:

  • remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time (many years);
  • become widely distributed throughout the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water and, most notably, air;
  • accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain; and
  • are toxic to both humans and wildlife.

Industrial chemicals currently included in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are:

  • hexachlorobenzene
  • hexachlorobutadiene
  • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • polychlorinated naphthalenes
  • short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs)
  • hexabromobiphenyl
  • hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether
  • hexabomodyclododecane (HBCDD)
  • pentachlorobenzene
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride
  • tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl etherchlordane
  • decabromodiphenyl ether (commercial mixture, c-decaBDE)
For information about these chemicals' original uses and production, characteristics, and listings in the Convention, see the Stockholm Convention website.

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