Chemical Safety and the Environment

ILO Toolkit on Chemicals and Waste

Chemicals and the World of Work

Chemicals are widely used throughout society, with both positive and negative effects on health, well-being, socio-economic aspects and the environment. Workers around the world are disproportionally exposed across almost all workplace sectors, with more than 1 billion workers exposed to hazardous substances, including pollutants, dusts, vapours and fumes, each year. 

An estimated 1 million of these workers lose their lives each year due to exposure to hazardous chemicals. For those who do not lose their lives, they may face non-fatal injuries and diseases resulting in disability, debilitating chronic disease and other health impacts. All of these deaths, injuries and illnesses are entirely preventable.

Major industrial accidents, such as the 2020 Beirut Port Explosion of ammonium nitrate, show the urgency of this global health crisis.