Toxic Chemicals are a Major Issue

Chemicals no doubt play an important role in today’s society. They are the building blocks for all physical things, including all the products we surround ourselves with on a daily basis. But many of these miniscule ingredients – the building materials that together constitute “the thing” you are holding in your hand – are hazardous.

In fact, over 70 percent of all the chemicals that are manufactured and used in Europe are hazardous to human health and/or the environment, according to Eurostat. In many other regions there is no authority that even tracks what kind of chemicals, and in which amounts, are being produced.

The computer or mobile phone that you’re using to read this text surely contains flame retardants to prevent it from catching fire. The same goes for the sofa you’re sitting on, or the carpet beneath your feet. If you bought street food this week, the glossy wrapping it came in was most certainly treated with PFAS to prevent the contents from sticking to it, and if you were wearing your waterproof jacket that day because of the weather, you were exposed to the same kind of chemicals.

These are just two groups of problematic chemicals that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. The reality is that we’re constantly exposed to a cocktail of chemicals that are hazardous to either us or the environment in some way.

Scientists have, for example, linked the fact that men in the Western world produce half as much sperm as they did 40 years ago to exposure to toxic chemicals. Studies show that exposure to toxic chemicals results in girls entering puberty earlier, increasing the risk of getting breast cancer later in life. Other studies link exposure to toxic chemicals to a loss of IQ points in children.

Various cancers, autoimmune disorders, behavioural and attention deficit disorders, male infertility, premature puberty, and an explosion in rates of obesity and cases of diabetes are other examples of health disorders that are linked to toxic chemicals.

As for the environment, hazardous chemicals and other pollutants, such as plastic and pharmaceutical waste, are released in large quantities across the Earth, accumulating in nature and wildlife and threatening to disrupt fragile ecosystems. Many of the world’s foremost chemical researchers are convinced that the presence of hazardous chemicals in the world is a global threat comparable to climate change.

This is of concern for all human beings. For investors, hazardous chemicals represent a huge liability, since they can lead to major economic costs, which often materialise only after a long time.