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Like many industries, the chemical industry needs to become more sustainable and, among other things, reduce its carbon footprint. But the situation is particularly complicated in the chemical industry, because in addition to its carbon or climate footprint, its toxicity footprint is also significant. This represents the toxic effects of chemicals released from chemical production processes and from chemical products. Examples of such substances are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its alternative product, GenX, which are used in the production of fluoropolymers such as Teflon, as well as plasticizers and UV absorbers for plastics, flame retardants, or UV filters in sun creams.
So far, the toxicity footprint hasn’t stood at the center of the sustainability debate. Over recent decades, it has even increased. Moreover, the carbon footprint and the toxicity footprint have only a limited connection with each other. If in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint the chemical industry uses fewer fossil raw materials and makes production processes more energy efficient, this does not necessarily lead to a reduction in the toxicity problem.
But how can these two footprints still be reduced together? One way is to reduce the amount and number of chemical products on the market.