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Chemicals can, among other things, cause cancer, affect the hormone system or affect the nervous system. Global treaties regulate, among other things, the use and phasing out of health-threatening and difficult to degrade chemicals, such as persistent organic pollutants or ozone-depleting substances.
Several multilateral conventions regulate the use of chemicals, such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. In recent years, the cooperation between these treaties has been strengthened and efforts are being made to achieve greater synergy. The Montreal Protocol should restrict the use of ozone-depleting substances. The Minamata Convention aims to minimise the use of mercury and to dispose of existing stocks of mercury responsibly.
Other substances to which particular attention is paid are lead and cadmium, asbestos and nano-materials. When considering the waste issue, special attention is paid to electronic waste and the issues around demolition vessels. In recent years, plastics have been high on the agenda, including their impact on ecosystems such as the oceans. The meeting of the UN Environment Assembly in early 2022 gave the go-ahead for negotiations on a full life cycle plastics convention.