Hazardous substances are contaminants that are ecologically harmful. Either they do not occur naturally or they normally occur at levels lower than current ones. Among the most well known examples are PCBs, DDTs, dioxins, TBT, brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) and heavy metals like lead, copper, cadmium and mercury. Some of these are very persistent and remain in the water for a long time, while many are also a health risk to people as they can accumulate in the marine food chain and end up on our dinner plates. The knowledge about the effects on human health from hazardous substances is still scarce, particularly when is comes to exposure to a combination of chemicals.
The present and the future
Levels of hazardous substances in the Baltic Sea are many times higher than those in the northern Atlantic and although inputs have mostly decreased from the 1990s levels remain high. As input from point sources are contantly reduced and measured, the importance of diffuse sources such as consumer products is increasing. The HELCOM contracting parties have committed themselves to work towards a Baltic Sea with life undisturbed by hazardous substances, a goal that is also defined by the following ecological objectives:
- Concentrations of hazardous substances close to natural levels
- All fish safe to eat
- Healthy wildlife
- Radioactivity at pre-Chernobyl level
These objectives will be achieved by reducing discharge, emissions and losses of hazardous substances continuously to either background levels for naturally occurring substances, or close to zero for man-made synthetic substances.
On the left hand side of the page you can find the inventions we have found that can reduce some of the bad effects caused by hazardous substances.