Much work remains to be done to understand and find ways to reduce and mitigate the effects of harmful substances and hazardous waste on human health and theenvironment. There are increasing concerns about exposure and, above all, the exposure of children to harmful substances.
Many countries will face the challenge of handling hazardous materialssafely in the years ahead. In rapidly industrializing developing countries, activities ranging from mining and minerals processing to manufacturing and waste recycling are cause for concern to localcitizens and foreign consumers alike. Growing awareness of the threats to human health and the environment arising from these activities is informing policy choices. Some health and environmental problemspersist, seemingly no matter how much is known about them or how accessible the solutions appear to be. Indoor air pollution caused by smoke from open fires, which poses serious health risks tomillions of people, could be significantly reduced if a few low-cost behavioural changes were made.
An agricultual worker without a mask sprays chemical pesticides on a bean field in Ecuador. The use ofmethods for safe storage, handling, and use of pesticides is far less widespread in developing countries. Consequently, pesticides can pose serious health hazards to farm workers.
Credit: Philippe Henry/ Biosphoto
Unanswered questions about nanomaterials
In 2009, researchers logged the appearance of the thousandth consumer product containing nanomaterials (Nanotechproject2009a). It is estimated that revenues from nanotechnology and its many applications, such as nanoelectronics and nanobiotechnology, could increase a hundredfold in the next decade, from around US$32billion today. Millions of new jobs could be created (Kelly 2009, Lux 2009, Palmberg and others 2009). A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) points out...