Learning from our past mistakes
Case studies from the Global North show the extent to which persistent and bioaccumulative
substances have contaminated entire regions. They also show the immense difficulties -
technical, economic and political - of cleaning up these hazardous chemicals after release,
including the very high expense of restoration programmes and the impossibility of total
Worse still, the largely unquantifiable costs to human health, the environment and to local
economies are rarely considered or compensated. Many of these effects are irreversible,
whilst the effects beyond the region concerned are impossible to calculate.
For persistent and
bioaccumulative substances these effects can be global, as many of them can be transported
far beyond their source, via ocean currents and atmospheric deposition, and have even
accumulated in the polar regions of the Earth.
In those parts of the world where industrialisation is booming, there is a danger that expenditure
on even basic environmental measures - let alone the avoidance of hazardous substances
through substitution - could be seen as an unnecessary impediment to economic growth.
The case studies from the Global North show that attempts to 'save money' by opting for the
cheapest ways to use and dispose of hazardous chemicals in the short term, can ultimately
translate into extremely high costs and losses in the future. These costs then have to be borne
by someone, and this is either the companies concerned or the taxpayer - often both.
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