Toxic chemical exposures begin before birth and continue throughout our lives. Many of these chemicals have been linked to serious illnesses, including asthma, infertility, learning disabilities, Parkinson's disease and cancer. These chemicals are also a major source of indoor air pollution. Some, such as mercury and dioxin, have been identified as global chemicals of concern by the world’s governments for their contributions to international environmental health problems.
A substantial percentage of all cancers are attributable to environmental and occupational exposures. Pregnant women, fetuses, infants, children and workers are especially vulnerable. Already, twelve million cancers are diagnosed each year worldwide, and each year over seven million people die of cancer. The majority of all cancers occur in low- and middle-income countries, and this proportion is increasing.
The World Health Organization has calculated that nearly one-tenth of all preventable deaths in 2004 were caused by toxic substances.
Overall, the global chemicals industry is projected to grow steadily to 2030, with a continuation of increased chemical use and production in developing countries. Parallel to this trend, the health impacts of chemicals will almost assuredly continue to grow.