The Swedish chemicals agency Kemi is warning that the UN’s target of a ‘non-toxic’ environment by 2020 ‘will not be reached’. Set in 2002, these UN sustainable development goals specify that member states will produce and use chemicals in ways that minimise significant adverse effects on human health and the environment by 2020.

‘We clearly see that preventive chemical control is a prerequisite for sustainable development,’ said Nina Cromnier, Kemi’s director general. ‘Work for a poison-free environment needs to continue even after 2020, both in Sweden, within the EU and at international level.’

The presence of hazardous substances in the environment is escalating in line with increasing consumption and production of chemicals and goods, Kemi asserted in its annual environmental objectives report to the government. The agency said there is a persistent lack of knowledge about the health and environmental effects of many chemical substances, concluding that ‘the objective of a poison-free environment’ will not be reached with current ‘measures and instruments’.

Cromnier suggested the need for legislation, as well as industry efforts, to meet the UN’s global sustainability goals. ‘Collaboration between business, government and research is crucial for replacing hazardous chemicals with better alternatives,’ she stated.