We are using more and more chemicals in a wider variety of products. Some of them may have serious impacts on health and the environment.
A modern lifestyle requires chemicals
Industrial releases of chemicals have been reduced in the past 20–30 years, while everyday products have become an increasingly important source of pollution. Examples are spray-on waterproofing, hair conditioner and mobile telephones.
Many hazardous substances have been forbidden in Norway and many other countries. As a result, researchers often find lower levels of these chemicals in fish and shellfish than they did 20–30 years ago.
However, new hazardous substances, including organic pollutants such as brominated flame retardants and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), are being detected in the Norwegian environment. Some of this pollution is of local origin, but a substantial proportion is transported from other countries with winds and ocean currents.
Hazardous substances have serious impacts
We can be exposed to hazardous substances when we use products containing them, and through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.
The hazardous substances we are most concerned about are toxic (they may for example affect the immune system or be carcinogenic), persistent and liable to bioaccumulate. They can have serious impacts on both people and the environment.
Both national and international efforts needed
The Norwegian authorities are seeking to minimise or eliminate the use of substances that are known to be particularly dangerous. Hazardous substances should be replaced with less hazardous ones wherever possible.
Because many chemicals spread across national borders with winds and ocean currents, international cooperation is essential. Norway works closely with the EU on chemicals, and generally applies the same legislation.