Review

Learning from the past and considering the future of chemicals in the environment

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Science  24 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6476, pp. 384-387
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay6637

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Abstract

Knowledge of the hazards and associated risks from chemicals discharged to the environment has grown considerably over the past 40 years. This improving awareness stems from advances in our ability to measure chemicals at low environmental concentrations, recognition of a range of effects on organisms, and a worldwide growth in expertise. Environmental scientists and companies have learned from the experiences of the past; in theory, the next generation of chemicals will cause less acute toxicity and be less environmentally persistent and bioaccumulative. However, researchers still struggle to establish whether the nonlethal effects associated with some modern chemicals and substances will have serious consequences for wildlife. Obtaining the resources to address issues associated with chemicals in the environment remains a challenge.

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