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Are Reductions in Industrial Organic Contaminants Emissions in Rich Countries Achieved Partly by Export of Toxic Wastes?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • Knut Breivik
  • Rosalinda Gioia
  • Paromita Chakraborty
  • Gan Zhang
  • Kevin C. Jones
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/11/2011
<mark>Journal</mark>Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number21
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)9154-9160
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Recent studies show that PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) air concentrations remain surprisingly high in parts of Africa and Asia. These are regions where PCBs were never extensively used, but which are implicated as recipients of obsolete products and wastes containing PCBs and other industrial organic contaminants, such as halogenated flame retardants (HFRs). We hypothesize that there may be different trends in emissions across the globe, whereby emissions of some industrial organic contaminants may be decreasing faster in former use regions (due to emission reductions combined with uncontrolled export), at the expense of regions receiving these substances as obsolete products and wastes. We conclude that the potential for detrimental effects on the environment and human health due to long-range transport by air, water, or wastes should be of equal concern when managing and regulating industrial organic contaminants. This calls for a better integration of life-cycle approaches in the management and regulation of industrial organic contaminants in order to protect environmental and human health on a global scale. Yet, little remains known about the amounts of industrial organic contaminants exported outside former use regions as different types of wastes because of the often illicit nature of these operations.