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One planet: one health. A call to support the initiative on a global science–policy body on chemicals and waste

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The chemical pollution crisis severely threatens human and environmental health globally. To tackle this challenge the establishment of an overarching international science–policy body has recently been suggested. We strongly support this initiative based on the awareness that humanity has already likely left the safe operating space within planetary boundaries for novel entities including chemical pollution. Immediate action is essential and needs to be informed by sound scientific knowledge and data compiled and critically evaluated by an overarching science–policy interface body. Major challenges for such a body are (i) to foster global knowledge production on exposure, impacts and governance going beyond data-rich regions (e.g., Europe and North America), (ii) to cover the entirety of hazardous chemicals, mixtures and wastes, (iii) to follow a one-health perspective considering the risks posed by chemicals and waste on ecosystem and human health, and (iv) to strive for solution-oriented assessments based on systems thinking. Based on multiple evidence on urgent action on a global scale, we call scientists and practitioners to mobilize their scientific networks and to intensify science–policy interaction with national governments to support the negotiations on the establishment of an intergovernmental body based on scientific knowledge explaining the anticipated benefit for human and environmental health.
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Bracketal. Environmental Sciences Europe (2022) 34:21
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-022-00602-6
POLICY BRIEF
One planet: one health. Acall tosupport
theinitiative onaglobal science–policy body
onchemicals andwaste
Werner Brack1,2* , Damia Barcelo Culleres3,4, Alistair B. A. Boxall5, Hélène Budzinski6, Sara Castiglioni7,
Adrian Covaci8, Valeria Dulio9, Beate I. Escher1,10, Peter Fantke11, Faith Kandie12, Despo Fatta‑Kassinos13,
Félix J. Hernández14, Klara Hilscherová15, Juliane Hollender16,17, Henner Hollert2, Annika Jahnke1,18,
Barbara Kasprzyk‑Hordern19, Stuart J. Khan20, Andreas Kortenkamp21, Klaus Kümmerer22, Brice Lalonde23,
Marja H. Lamoree24, Yves Levi23, Pablo Antonio Lara Martín25, Cassiana C. Montagner26, Christian Mougin27,
Titus Msagati28, Jörg Oehlmann2, Leo Posthuma29,30, Malcolm Reid31, Martin Reinhard32, Susan D. Richardson33,
Pawel Rostkowski34, Emma Schymanski35, Flurina Schneider2,36, Jaroslav Slobodnik37, Yasuyuki Shibata38,
Shane Allen Snyder39, Fernando Fabriz Sodré40, Ivana Teodorovic41, Kevin V. Thomas42, Gisela A. Umbuzeiro43,
Pham Hung Viet44, Karina Gin Yew‑Hoong45, Xiaowei Zhang46 and Ettore Zuccato7
Abstract
The chemical pollution crisis severely threatens human and environmental health globally. To tackle this challenge the
establishment of an overarching international science–policy body has recently been suggested. We strongly support
this initiative based on the awareness that humanity has already likely left the safe operating space within planetary
boundaries for novel entities including chemical pollution. Immediate action is essential and needs to be informed
by sound scientific knowledge and data compiled and critically evaluated by an overarching science–policy inter‑
face body. Major challenges for such a body are (i) to foster global knowledge production on exposure, impacts and
governance going beyond data‑rich regions (e.g., Europe and North America), (ii) to cover the entirety of hazardous
chemicals, mixtures and wastes, (iii) to follow a one‑health perspective considering the risks posed by chemicals and
waste on ecosystem and human health, and (iv) to strive for solution‑oriented assessments based on systems think‑
ing. Based on multiple evidence on urgent action on a global scale, we call scientists and practitioners to mobilize
their scientific networks and to intensify science–policy interaction with national governments to support the nego
tiations on the establishment of an intergovernmental body based on scientific knowledge explaining the anticipated
benefit for human and environmental health.
Keywords: Chemical pollution, Science–policy body on chemicals, Planetary boundaries, One‑health perspective,
Systems thinking
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A call toaction
Climate change and biodiversity loss are well known to
pose a threat to humankind and the global environment
and are rightly in the focus of global policies and the pub-
lic. However, a third major challenge on a global level
of the same significance is the chemical pollution crisis
that severely threatens human and environmental health
Open Access
*Correspondence: werner.brack@ufz.de
1 UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoserstraße 15,
04318 Leipzig, Germany
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
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Bracketal. Environmental Sciences Europe (2022) 34:21
globally and has not been sufficiently addressed by global
and national policies. Governmental organization such
as the European Commission [1, 2] and intergovernmen-
tal organizations such as the United Nations Environ-
ment Programme (UNEP) [3], have developed strategies
and enacted legally binding regulations and multilateral
agreements to control and manage chemical pollution to
foster a toxic-free environment and enacted legally bind-
ing regulations, respective host the secretariats of legally
binding multilateral agreements. Recently, UNEP pub-
lished the first synthetic report, in which chemical pol-
lution and wastes was listed as one of three top-priority
issues together with climate change and biodiversity loss
[4]. However, while international science–policy bodies
are established to address climate change (Intergovern-
mental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) and the loss of
biodiversity (Intergovernmental Science–Policy Plat-
form on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES), an
overarching intergovernmental science–policy body to
address pollution and its negative effects on humans and
the environment on a global scale commensurate with
the scope of the problem is still lacking.
Such a science–policy body on chemicals and waste has
recently been suggested by several renowned environ-
mental chemists and toxicologists, striving for enhanced
bidirectional communication between policy-makers
and scientists on a global scale with broad involvement
of the wider scientific community to mobilize worldwide
expertise to respond to this severe threat for humankind
[5]. We strongly support this initiative. We highlight the
need for horizon scanning and the establishment of early
warning mechanisms on risks related to chemicals and
waste to cover the growing universe of compounds and
keep or reduce chemical pollution well below planetary
boundaries for novel entities which include synthetic
chemicals [6], but also to prevent exceedance of local and
regional boundaries with clear impact on biodiversity,
ecosystem services and human health. Immediate action
to reduce global chemical pollution is essential and needs
to be informed by sound scientific knowledge and data
compiled and critically evaluated by an overarching sci-
ence–policy interface body with wide involvement of sci-
entists and practitioners as suggested by Wang etal. [5].
ere is an increasing awareness that humanity, par-
ticularly the population and industry in high-income
countries, have already likely left the safe operating space,
i.e., transgressed the planetary boundary for novel enti-
ties [7]. In addition, international assessment and regu-
lation of chemical pollution clearly lags behind the rapid
and enormous increase in production and diversity of
chemicals. erefore, we see important tasks of the new
body in improving prevention of pollution, reducing
and eliminating data and management gaps on a global
scale, identifying pollution problems with the poten-
tial to exceed regional and global boundaries, as well as
developing strategies to tackle these issues holistically
and systemically. Clearly communicating science and
policy needs to solve this societal problem, the body is
required to conduct assessments that go beyond current
approaches, which are limited in terms of the geographi-
cal regions covered, the number of chemicals considered
and the lack of considering ambient mixtures, the consid-
eration of science-based and absolute pollution reduction
targets and the lack of systems thinking. Major challenges
for a novel science–policy body on chemicals and wastes
are (i) to foster global knowledge production on expo-
sure, impacts and governance, and go beyond data-rich
regions (e.g., Europe and North America), (ii) to cover
the entirety of hazardous chemicals and mixtures, (iii)
to follow a one-health perspective considering the risks
posed by chemicals on ecosystems, ecosystem services
and human health, (iv) and to strive for solution-oriented
assessments based on systems thinking and appreciat-
ing the complexity of driving forces, pressures, states,
impacts and possible responses to reduce chemical pollu-
tion to remain within safe boundaries [7].
Foster global knowledge onexposure andimpacts
Several UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
aim to globally ensure healthy lives (#3), access to clean
water and sanitation (#6), responsible consumption and
production (#12), and the protection of aquatic and ter-
restrial life (#14 and #15). Attaining these goals requires
an efficient contaminant monitoring, control, and miti-
gation. Nine planetary boundaries have been identified
including “novel entities” comprising new chemical sub-
stances, new forms of existing substances and modified
and new life forms [8]. ere is sufficient evidence for
chemical impacts on environmental and human health
on local to global scales [9], although its quantification
is challenged by complexity [10, 11]. However, even if
a well-defined planetary boundary for novel entities
including chemical pollution is still lacking, the rate of
increase of chemical production and use is alarming and
exceeds that of most other indicators including popula-
tion growth rate, emissions of carbon dioxide and agri-
cultural land use [12]. A recent paper concluded that
“humanity is currently operating outside the planetary
boundary” on novel entities and that “the increasing rate
of production and releases of larger volumes and higher
numbers of novel entities with diverse risk potentials
exceed societies’ ability to conduct safety related assess-
ments and monitoring” [7]. At the global level, three
criteria have been defined to be fulfilled to pose a threat
to the Earth system [10]. Next to the (i) occurrence of a
disruptive effect on a vital Earth-system process and (ii)
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a lack of reversibility, they include (iii) discovery only
when the problem is already occurring at a global scale.
One example for exceeding planetary boundaries may
be plastic pollution combining global distribution and
irreversibility [13] of the phenomenon with potential
impacts on Earth systems [14, 15]. Extraordinary efforts
are needed to mitigate plastic pollution and transform
the global plastics economy [16] aiming at zero plastic
pollution [17]. e excessive generation of plastic wastes
generated worldwide (1.6 million tonnes per day) dur-
ing the COVID-19 pandemic runs the risk to reverse the
momentum of global efforts to reduce plastic waste pro-
duction [18], resulting in severe pollution problems on all
continents [19, 20]. Early warning strategies informed by
monitoring data from many regions of the world, evalu-
ated in assessments by the global scientific community,
and organized in an international science–policy body is
key to ensure or re-establish that the safe operating space
for global societal development is not exceeded.
Current separate approaches are insufficient. Exist-
ing data clearly support that chemical pollution and its
impacts occur from the local to the global scale, despite
current assessments and policies. Chemicals can be
transported over long distances via the atmosphere and
water cycles and hence affect regions far from where
they were produced, used, or emitted (Fig.1). Persistent
organic pollutants have been detected in humans glob-
ally [2124] and in their food [25], in aquatic biota even
at the remotest places such as polar regions, high-moun-
tain lakes, offshore waters and deep ocean trenches [26,
27] and in terrestrial food webs [28]. At the same time,
there is evidence that climate change may remobilize
legacy pollution in sediments [29] and glaciers [30] that
has been thought to be permanently removed from the
biosphere [31]. However, also less persistent chemicals
of emerging concern (CECs), including pharmaceuticals
and modern pesticides, occur ubiquitously in the global
environment because of their widespread and continued
use by societies all over the world [3235].
e manufacture of hazardous chemicals is rapidly
growing in low- and middle-income countries. Produc-
tion is typically for use in high-income markets with
poorly treated industrial wastewater discharged into
domestic sewers [36]. Particularly high concentrations
of hazardous chemicals are emitted from pesticide [37],
textile [38] and drug [39] production. Manufactur-
ing antibiotic drugs is often accompanied by very high
concentrations in sewers that may act as a reservoir for
antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria [40]. Even if anti-
microbials occurrence in the environment above Pre-
dicted No Effect Concentrations (PNEC) for resistance
selection [41] remains a local phenomenon, the rapid
Fig. 1 Global distribution of chemicals
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spread of AMR bacteria by global mobility, migration and
trade provides an almost perfect scenario for the exceed-
ance of global boundaries [11]. It is predicted that by
2050, the number of deaths attributable annually to AMR
bacteria will reach about 10 million, exceeding those of
cancer, HIV and other diseases [42]. ere is increasing
evidence that even regional pollution problems can thus
rapidly transform to global-scale issues that cannot be
tackled at national and regional scales and require global
action and steering globally by an international body.
While chemical pollution data in North America and
Europe is increasingly becoming available, supported
by continental scale science–policy networks such as
the European NORMAN network [43], there is still a
substantial lack of data from many countries in Asia,
Africa and South America, as shown for pharmaceuti-
cals [33] and pesticides [44], even if monitoring studies
in data-poor countries such as Brazil [45], Sri Lanka [46],
Kazakhstan [47], Nigeria [48] and Kenya [49] are slowly
increasing. ese emerging data indicate that concentra-
tions of hazardous chemicals in low-income countries
may be significantly higher than in Europe today. is is
due to a combination of waste mismanagement [50] and
global waste trade [51], poor sanitation and water treat-
ment, the continued use and emission of high-risk chem-
icals phased out in high-income countries and the high
use of region-specific compounds such as antiretroviral
and antimalarial drugs and pesticides that may provide
so-far unrecognized risks [52, 53].
Mitigating pollution problems in low-income countries
is not only essential to protect human health, biodiver-
sity, and ecosystem functions there, but has also direct
benefits for all other regions. is effect may be high-
lighted for global trade of food, which has been shown
to largely account for human exposure to pesticides and
other hazardous chemicals in Europe and the US [54, 55].
Examples are the export of fruits and vegetables from
South Africa and South America to Europe and transfer
of meat from South America to Europe. e close nexus
between unsustainable chemistry and agriculture for the
production of food and other sectors for consumer goods
with severe impacts on human health and ecosystems in
producing regions, combined with the worldwide dis-
tribution of the hazardous chemicals with global trade,
clearly demands for strategies on sustainable chemistry
[56] on a global scale. An international body should care-
fully review existing regional strategies such as the EU
Chemical Strategy for Sustainability [2]—including their
regulatory mechanisms and effectiveness in mitigating
pollution—and conclude on requirements for a toxic-
free environment on a global scale. is overarching goal
requires, among others, incentives and initiatives to close
data gaps on pollution, risks and promising governance
instruments in many regions of the world, supported
amongst others by better uptake of digitalization meth-
ods [57] to derive and prioritize needs for global preven-
tion, monitoring, regulation and mitigation.
Cover thewhole range ofhazardous chemicals
andmixtures
Since the 1970s, global production, trade and consump-
tion of chemicals has increased substantially, particularly
in emerging economies [12], and increasingly complex
products have been designed to meet numerous func-
tionalities [58]. A recent worldwide inventory revealed
that more than 350,000 industrial chemicals and mixtures
have been registered for production [59] and may finally
end up in the environment. As most regulations handle
per-chemical dossiers, restrictions for specific chemicals
often result in their replacement by other, often equally
persistent and hazardous chemicals, reflected by the
emerging global distribution of these new compounds
[60]. Although several international treaties including
the Stockholm, Rotterdam, Minamata and International
Maritime Organization (IMO) Conventions regulate the
production, use and trade of persistent organic pollutants
(POPs) and other hazardous substances, the large major-
ity of potentially hazardous compounds in use [59] and
detected in the environment [61] is not considered by any
of these conventions.
Substantial progress in analytical multi-compound
screening techniques opened new doors to extend moni-
toring to a large number of potentially hazardous target
chemicals complemented by more exploratory non-tar-
geted approaches and help to slowly approach the full
complexity of the chemical pollution problem [34, 62].
At the same time, awareness is growing that chemicals
exert impact on the local to the global scale as complex
mixtures of a multitude of chemicals, and there is sub-
stantial evidence that ignoring mixture exposure and
effects significantly underestimates pollution risks and
impacts [63]. A better exchange on and understanding
of the global ambient and human exposure to complex
mixtures of chemicals is supported by new approaches
of FAIR and open science [64, 65], openly accessible data
infrastructures as provided by NORMAN [66, 67] and
extensive web-based applications on chemical properties
and hazard data for almost one million compounds such
as the US-EPA CompTox Chemicals Dashboard [68] and
PubChem [69]. ese resources will allow for a quantum
leap in the global data exchange, rapid growth of accessi-
ble knowledge and derivation of key management actions
as required for effective assessments and the design of
effective preventive and management actions by the sug-
gested international science–policy body and for political
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decisions on pollution control and mitigation all over the
world.
One of the great challenges for a novel science–pol-
icy body on chemical pollution and waste would be to
respond to the rapidly increasing numbers of produced
and used chemicals worldwide and develop strategies
for a holistic approach on preventing, monitoring, regu-
lating, and mitigating chemical pollution rather than
chemical by chemical. Key elements of an unbiased strat-
egy to explore pollution trends and upcoming risks may
be the global promotion of non-target screening [62]
and effect-based methods [34, 70] in environmental and
human (bio)monitoring based on harmonized criteria in
quality assurance [71]. ese measures support grouping
of chemicals for regulation and advanced assessment of
chemical mixtures [7274] and the restriction of poten-
tially hazardous chemicals to essential use only [75].
Follow aone‑health perspective
Although the impact of chemical pollution on environ-
mental and human health has historically been addressed
separately, “the convergence of people, animals, and
our environment has created a new dynamic in which
the health of each group is inextricably interconnected”
[76]. Environmental pollution is a key driver of human
health impairment and at the same time of environmen-
tal health threats including losses of biodiversity and eco-
system functions and services to humans. Since humans
and wildlife share many targets for biologically active
chemicals [77] and adverse outcome pathways [78], prob-
lematic chemicals affect both, so that also innovative
solutions for a pollution-free planet [3, 79] will protect
both. erefore, we suggest the new science–policy inter-
face body to follow a one-health perspective addressing
chemical risks on humans and ecosystems.
Diseases caused by chemical pollution have been esti-
mated to be responsible for 9million premature deaths
in 2015, three times more than from HIV, tuberculosis
and malaria together and 15 times more than from war
and violence [80]. For neuro-developmental toxicity, a
global pandemic has been uncovered with one in every
six children having a neuro-developmental disability,
including autism, attention deficit disorder, mental retar-
dation, and cerebral palsy. Exposure to more than 200
neurotoxic chemicals has been identified as possible
cause including metals, POPs and organic solvents [81].
Mixtures of polybrominated flame retardants have been
shown to play an important role in neurodevelopmental
effects [82]. Human reproduction is also at risk by chemi-
cal pollution. Within the last century a significant decline
of total human fertility rates has occurred, while male
reproductive disorders have increased [83, 84]. Exposure
to mixtures of endocrine disruptors is hypothesized to be
one of the drivers of this phenomenon [85].
Human health threats triggered by chemical pollution
are typically accompanied by impairments of ecosys-
tems and a decline of biodiversity [86, 87]. For Europe
it has been shown that aquatic ecosystems are exposed
to ambient mixtures of toxic pollution [88] at a level
of which chemicals are of similar importance for the
impaired ecological status as other well-accepted driv-
ers, such as habitat degradation and excessive loads of
nutrients [89]. In the oceans, legacy POPs still occur at
concentrations that cause a continuous decline of distinct
predatory marine mammals such as killer whales [90]. In
freshwater ecosystems, continuously emitted endocrine
disruptors may lead to population effects at very small
concentrations, as demonstrated for contraceptive drugs
which may cause intersex in wild fish [91] and collapse
of fish populations [92]. Antifouling agents, globally used
in high tonnages in ship paints [93], can act as endocrine
disruptors and have been shown to cause the extinction
of mollusc populations in harbours suffering from high
exposure [94, 95]. In addition, they may also impair mac-
rophyte communities [96] and even caused regime shifts
in lake ecosystems [97].
e current biodiversity crisis has severe impacts on
essential ecosystem services for humankind exceeding
planetary boundaries for many biomes [98, 99]. is is
particularly concerning for the drastic decline of flying
insect biomass threatening pollination of the majority of
plant species in nature and for food production, nutrient
cycling and food sources for higher trophic levels [100].
Agriculture intensification, including increased pesticide
and fertilizer usage, is one of the potential reasons for
the decline of insects [100] and insectivorous grassland
birds [101, 102]. e anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac
applied in cattle was shown to cause near-extinction of
vultures feeding on carcasses of animals treated with
this compound in India and Pakistan [103], with severe
effects on public health [104]. A strong link between eco-
system integrity and human health was also suggested for
pesticide application in Africa. Pesticides has applied in
Kenya have been shown not only to affect invertebrate
communities but also to promote tolerant hosts for para-
sites and thus, pave the way for transmission of diseases
such as schistosomiasis, with 218million people infected
worldwide and up to 280,000 deaths per year [105].
e close interlink between chemical pollution and
impacts on human and environmental health, including
losses of biodiversity and impaired ecosystem functions
[106, 107], strongly demands for a one-health perspec-
tive from the local to the global scale. us, a global sci-
ence–policy body on chemicals and waste should adopt
this perspective from the very beginning and aim to
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maximize synergies of human and ecosystem health pro-
tection striving for a pollution-free and healthy planet
[3, 79]. is goal requires involvement and collabora-
tion of experts from the different scientific communities
(chemistry, human health, (eco)toxicology, epidemiology,
biodiversity, social sciences, economy) and the close col-
laboration with existing intergovernmental organizations
such as the Strategic Approach to International Chemi-
cals Management (SAICM), World Health Organization
(WHO) and IPBES.
Strive forsolutions‑oriented assessments based
onsystems thinking
Already established for pollution problems at the regional
scale [108], the drivers–pressures–states–impact–
response (DPSIR) causal–analytical scheme may be also
useful to address this challenge at a global scale. Chemi-
cal emissions as a global pressure (P) for ecosystems
and human health is highly complex with respect to the
resulting mixture composition status (S), which may be
dynamic in time and space but also regarding the associ-
ated potential impacts (I) on wildlife and human health.
e diversity of driving forces (D) and actors involved
in the emissions is large, and include agriculture, indus-
try, global trade, and consumers, while those are in turn
subjected to global change. Chemical pollution thus
creates a high diversity of pollution states in different
regions of the world with different impacts on biodiver-
sity, ecosystem functions, exposure and health effects on
human populations. It is then the focus on the response
opportunities and consideration of a wide range of pos-
sible responses that matters for solving the problem, with
potential solutions on all aspects of the DPSI-chain, i.e.,
on drivers, states and impacts. e earlier in that chain
the response is effective, the less the risks and impacts.
We see the need for an international science–policy
interface body on chemical pollution to take the high
complexity of this system and the “solutions space” of
possible responses into account from the very beginning
[109]. Solution spaces can range from technical and man-
agement options for local application until governance
options including regulatory and financing mechanisms
at the global scale [110]. Systems thinking emphasizing
the “how” and “why” of intervention outcomes should
combine complexity-aware evaluation of monitoring
data (critical mixture components, influence of time etc.)
with broad stakeholder involvement and virtual simula-
tion models that allow for scenario calculations [111].
Existing integrated fate-exposure models such as the UN
Environment scientific consensus model USEtox may be
used and expanded to test for different exposure and risk
scenarios and possible interventions [112]. e power of
these models to estimate near-field human exposures has
been demonstrated recently by high-throughput screen-
ing of chemicals of concern in toys [113] and in building
materials [114]. Long-range transport models for organic
chemicals have been developed to understand pollution
problems far from the regions, where chemicals have
been produced and applied [115]. Consistent model-
ling frameworks for the distribution of chemical pollut-
ants by global trade of goods and waste are less available
although first examples exist such as the global food sys-
tem [54].
Our call tosupport theinitiative onaglobal
science–policy body
Along the lines discussed above, we see a clear need for
the establishment of a global science–policy body on
chemicals and waste, as suggested by Wang et al. [5],
bringing together global scientific expertise on chemical
pollution and governance, ecosystem and human health,
as well as biodiversity to “strengthen the science–pol-
icy interface and the use of science in monitoring pro-
gress, priority-setting, solution focus and policy making
throughout the life cycle of chemicals and waste” as sug-
gested in the UNEP Global Chemicals Outlook II [79].
is is a call to scientists and practitioners to mobilize
their scientific networks and to intensify science–policy
interaction with national governments to support the
negotiations on the establishment of an intergovernmen-
tal body based on scientific knowledge, explaining the
urgency of global action on chemical pollution and dis-
cussing the anticipated benefit for human and environ-
mental health on the way towards a pollution-free planet
and a sustainable economic development within the safe
operating space of the planetary boundaries. is initia-
tive can only be successful if scientists and policy-makers
join forces and combine expert and practical knowledge
across continents and institutional silos in the suggested
global panel to close the dramatic data gaps on chemical
pollution in many parts of the world, identify the most
important pollution problems and develop solution
strategies to tackle them based on close science–policy
interfacing and broad stakeholder involvement. A strong
mandate and support from national governments and the
international community are required to give prevention
and mitigation of pollution an adequate weight in regula-
tion, industry, and private behaviour to protect our com-
mon one health on our one planet.
Acknowledgements
All authors thank multiple funding agencies and their institutes for long‑term
support in fundamental and applied research on chemical pollution.
Authors’ contributions
WB conceptualized and drafted the manuscript. All other authors helped to
further elaborate the manuscript and contributed specific aspects. All authors
read and approved the final manuscript.
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Funding
Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. Not applicable.
Availability of data and materials
Not applicable.
Declarations
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Not applicable.
Consent for publication
Not applicable.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests. HH is Editor‑in‑
Chief of this Journal.
Author details
1 UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoserstraße 15,
04318 Leipzig, Germany. 2 Faculty Biological Sciences, Goethe University
Frankfurt, Max‑von‑der‑Laue‑Straße 13, 60438 Frankfurt, Germany. 3 Catalan
Institute of Water Research, Carrer Emili Grahit 101, 17003 Girona, Spain.
4 Spanish National Research Council, Institute for Environmental Assessment
& Water Research, Water & Soil Quality Research Group, Jordi Girona 18‑26,
08034 Barcelona, Spain. 5 Dept Environment & Geography, University of York,
York, N Yorkshire YO10 5DD, UK. 6 Université de Bordeaux, 351 crs de la Libéra‑
tion, 33405 Talence, France. 7 Department of Environmental Sciences, Istituto
di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS, Via Mario Negri 2, 20156 Milan,
Italy. 8 Toxicological Center, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplen 1, 2610 Wil‑
rijk, Belgium. 9 INERIS ‑ Direction Milieu et Impacts sur le Vivant (MIV), Parc
technologique ALATA , 60550 Verneuil‑en‑Halatte, France. 10 Center for Applied
Geoscience, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.
11 Quantitative Sustainability Assessment, Department of Technology, Manage‑
ment and Economics, Technical University of Denmark, Produktionstorvet
424, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark. 12 Department of Biological Sciences, Moi
University, 3900‑30100 Eldoret, Kenya. 13 Department of Civil and Environmen‑
tal Engineering and Nireas‑International Water Research Center, University
of Cyprus, P.O. Box 20537, 1678 Nicosia, Cyprus. 14 Research Institute for Pesti‑
cides and Water, University Jaume I, 12006 Castellon, Spain. 15 RECETOX, Fac‑
ulty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlarska 2, Brno, Czech Republic. 16 Eawag,
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, 8600 Dübendorf,
Switzerland. 17 Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH
Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland. 18 RW TH Aachen University, Worringerweg
1, 52074 Aachen, Germany. 19 University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK. 20 School
of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney,
NSW 2052, Australia. 21 Centre for Pollution Research and Policy, Department
of Life Sciences, College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Brunel Uni‑
versity London, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK. 22 Institute for Sustainable Chemistry,
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Universitätsallee 1, 21335 Lüneburg, Germany.
23 The French Water Academy, 51 rue Salvador‑Allende, 92027 Nanterre, France.
24 Department Environment & Health, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boele‑
laan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 25 Departamento de Química
Física, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y Ambientales, Universidad de Cádiz –
European Universities of the Seas, Campus Río San Pedro, 11510 Puerto Real,
Cádiz, Spain. 26 Institute of Chemistry, UNICAMP, Campinas 13083‑970, Brazil.
27 Université Paris‑Saclay, INRAE, AgroParisTech, UMR ECOSYS, 78026 Versailles,
France. 28 Institute for Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability (iNanoWS),
College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET), University of South
Africa, Pretoria, South Africa. 29 RIVM‑National Institute for Public Health
and the Environment, PO Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands. 30 Depart‑
ment of Environmental Science, Radbound University Nijmegen, Nijmegen,
The Netherlands. 31 Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Environmental
Chemistry and Technology, Oslo, Norway. 32 Stanford University, Stanford,
CA 94305‑4020, USA. 33 Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, University
of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA. 34 NILU‑Norwegian Institute for Air
Research, P.O. Box 100, 2027 Kjeller, Norway. 35 University of Luxembourg, 6
avenue du Swing, 4367 Belvaux, Luxembourg. 36 Institute for Social‑Ecological
Research (ISOE), Hamburger Alee 45, 60486 Frankfurt, Germany. 37 Environ‑
mental Institute, Okruzna 784/42, 97241 Kos, Slovak Republic. 38 Environmental
Safety Center, Tokyo University of Science, 12‑1 Ichigaya‑Funagawara, Shinjuku,
Tokyo 162‑0826, Japan. 39 Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute,
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore. 40 University of Brasi‑
lia, Brasília, DF 70910‑000, Brazil. 41 Faculty of Sciences, University of Novi Sad,
Novi Sad, Serbia. 42 Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences
(QAEHS), The University of Queensland, 20 Cornwall Street, Woolloongabba,
QLD 4102, Australia. 43 Faculty of Technology, UNICAMP, Limeira 13484‑332,
Brazil. 44 VNU Key Laboratory of Analytical Technology for Environmental Qual‑
ity, Vietnam National University, 334 Nguyen Trai, Hanoi, Vietnam. 45 Depart‑
ment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Singa‑
pore, 1 Engineering Drive 2, Singapore, Singapore. 46 Centre of Chemical Safety
and Risks, School of the Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China.
Received: 31 January 2022 Accepted: 25 February 2022
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... Sources of pollution are manifold in mountain ecosystems (Lei and Wania, 2004;Noyes et al., 2009;Shunthirasingham et al., 2010) and we generally lack a global approach to observe environmental pollution and its impact (Brack et al., 2022). Global atmospheric transport of micropollutants (Hussain et al., 2019;Wania and Mackay, 1993;Yang et al., 2010) and local human activities such as mining, logging, agriculture, pastoralism and tourism are the main pollution sources in mountain environments. ...
... We also know little about each (detectable) compound's physico-chemical characteristics, e.g. the water-air constant (K wa ), without which it is difficult to make predictions on future pollution patterns in mountains. Generally, the introduction of new pollutants and changes in pollutant mobilization due to climate change may challenge mountain ecosystem health and increase the vulnerability of species and humans to pathogens, increasing health risks (Brack et al., 2022;Schmeller et al., 2018Schmeller et al., , 2020. Concerns about adverse toxic effects have especially been raised about, but are not limited to, pollutants introduced from local activities (Machate et al., 2022). ...
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Mountains are an essential component of the global life-support system. They are characterized by a rugged, heterogenous landscape with rapidly changing environmental conditions providing myriad ecological niches over relatively small spatial scales. Although montane species are well adapted to life at extremes, they are highly vulnerable to human derived ecosystem threats. Here we build on the manifesto ‘World Scientists' Warning to Humanity’, issued by the Alliance of World Scientists, to outline the major threats to mountain ecosystems. We highlight climate change as the greatest threat to mountain ecosystems, which are more impacted than their lowland counterparts. We further discuss the cascade of “knock-on” effects of climate change such as increased UV radiation, altered hydrological cycles, and altered pollution profiles; highlighting the biological and socio-economic consequences. Finally, we present how intensified use of mountains leads to overexploitation and abstraction of water, driving changes in carbon stock, reducing biodiversity, and impacting ecosystem functioning. These perturbations can provide opportunities for invasive species, parasites and pathogens to colonize these fragile habitats, driving further changes and losses of micro- and macro-biodiversity, as well further impacting ecosystem services. Ultimately, imbalances in the normal functioning of mountain ecosystems will lead to changes in vital biological, biochemical, and chemical processes, critically reducing ecosystem health with widespread repercussions for animal and human wellbeing. Developing tools in species/habitat conservation and future restoration is therefore essential if we are to effectively mitigate against the declining health of mountains.
... Moreover, there is increasing interest in a 'One Health' approach which links wildlife, environmental and human health (WHO/SCBD 2015). There are important parallels between the increasing incidence of human disorders and those observed in wildlife [28],humans and wildlife share many targets for biologically active chemicals and adverse outcome pathways, so that innovative solutions for a pollution-free planet will protect both [29]. Using apex predators as a biomonitoring tool may be highly relevant in this context [17]. ...
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The chemical industry is the leading sector in the EU in terms of added value. However, contaminants pose a major threat and significant costs to the environment and human health. While EU legislation and international conventions aim to reduce this threat, regulators struggle to assess and manage chemical risks, given the vast number of substances involved and the lack of data on exposure and hazards. The European Green Deal sets a ‘ zero pollution ambition for a toxic free environment ’ by 2050 and the EU Chemicals Strategy calls for increased monitoring of chemicals in the environment. Monitoring of contaminants in biota can, inter alia: provide regulators with early warning of bioaccumulation problems with chemicals of emerging concern; trigger risk assessment of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances; enable risk assessment of chemical mixtures in biota; enable risk assessment of mixtures; and enable assessment of the effectiveness of risk management measures and of chemicals regulations overall. A number of these purposes are to be addressed under the recently launched European Partnership for Risk Assessment of Chemicals (PARC). Apex predators are of particular value to biomonitoring. Securing sufficient data at European scale implies large-scale, long-term monitoring and a steady supply of large numbers of fresh apex predator tissue samples from across Europe. Natural science collections are very well-placed to supply these. Pan-European monitoring requires effective coordination among field organisations, collections and analytical laboratories for the flow of required specimens, processing and storage of specimens and tissue samples, contaminant analyses delivering pan-European data sets, and provision of specimen and population contextual data. Collections are well-placed to coordinate this. The COST Action European Raptor Biomonitoring Facility provides a well-developed model showing how this can work, integrating a European Raptor Biomonitoring Scheme, Specimen Bank and Sampling Programme. Simultaneously, the EU-funded LIFE APEX has demonstrated a range of regulatory applications using cutting-edge analytical techniques. PARC plans to make best use of such sampling and biomonitoring programmes. Collections are poised to play a critical role in supporting PARC objectives and thereby contribute to delivery of the EU’s zero-pollution ambition.
... We should be flexible and prepared to take up the scientific challenges and collaborate productively with regulatory institutions to address the identified challenges and modernise chemical risk assessment. This is also in line with the concern of many scientists that chemical pollution and the wide range of adverse effects on human and ecosystem health demand additional efforts on a global scale (Brack et al. 2022;. We see the CSS as a European strategy that, in concert with other initiatives, may open new opportunities to minimise hazardous chemical pollution and thus risks to human health and ecosystems. ...
... 7 While few chemicals are considered to have global effects, the combination of localto-regional impacts across the wide range of released chemicals may irreversibly disrupt biodiversity at the global scale. 8,9,10 Therefore, a sustainable chemicals management requires consideration of local and regional chemical impacts. 11 Figure 1 outlines some of the planetary boundaries that chemicals affect, along with the adverse outcomes they contribute to. ...
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The evidence for hormetic responses with chemical effects at doses lower than the no-observed-adverse-effect-level (sub-NOAEL) is increasing, creating a need for meta-analyses of sub-NOAEL effects across studies. However, the distinct features of hormetic responses complicate the procedures of meta-analyses aiming to study sub-NOAEL, hormetic effects, and there is no standardized methodology to serve as a guideline. In this piece, a protocol is proposed, which covers the selection of more holistic keywords to be integrated into the literature search queries, the designation of control, and the identification of NOAEL (and thus sub-NOAEL dose responses). It also considers the selection of the response indicators and the incorporation of time and dose as sources of variation. This protocol can serve as a reference point for a harmonized and more robust methodology to meta-analyze sub-NOAEL effects of chemicals on living organisms.
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The presence of pharmaceuticals in the environment, especially the aquatic environment, has received a lot of attention in the last 20 plus years. Despite that attention, the two most important questions regarding pharmaceuticals in the environment still cannot be answered. It is not possible to put the threat posed by pharmaceuticals into perspective with the many other threats (stressors) facing aquatic organisms, such as low flows due to over‐abstraction of water, inhibited passage of migratory species due to dams and weirs, diseases, algal blooms causing low oxygen levels and releasing toxins, eutrophication, climate change, etc, etc. Nor is it possible to identify which pharmaceuticals are of concern and which are not. Not only can these key questions not be answered presently, they have received extremely little attention, despite being identified 10 years ago as the two most important questions to answer. That situation must change if resources and expertise are to be effectively used to protect the environment. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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We submit that the safe operating space of the planetary boundary of novel entities is exceeded since annual production and releases are increasing at a pace that outstrips the global capacity for assessment and monitoring. The novel entities boundary in the planetary boundaries framework refers to entities that are novel in a geological sense and that could have large-scale impacts that threaten the integrity of Earth system processes. We review the scientific literature relevant to quantifying the boundary for novel entities and highlight plastic pollution as a particular aspect of high concern. An impact pathway from production of novel entities to impacts on Earth system processes is presented. We define and apply three criteria for assessment of the suitability of control variables for the boundary: feasibility, relevance, and comprehensiveness. We propose several complementary control variables to capture the complexity of this boundary, while acknowledging major data limitations. We conclude that humanity is currently operating outside the planetary boundary based on the weight-of-evidence for several of these control variables. The increasing rate of production and releases of larger volumes and higher numbers of novel entities with diverse risk potentials exceed societies’ ability to conduct safety related assessments and monitoring. We recommend taking urgent action to reduce the harm associated with exceeding the boundary by reducing the production and releases of novel entities, noting that even so, the persistence of many novel entities and/or their associated effects will continue to pose a threat.
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Environmental health risks such as household air pollution due to burning solid fuels, inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene, and chemical pollution disproportionately affect the poorest and most marginalized populations. While billions of dollars and countless hours of research have been applied toward addressing these issues in both development and humanitarian contexts, many interventions fail to achieve or sustain desired outcomes over time. This pattern points to the perpetuation of linear thinking, despite the complex nature of environmental health within these contexts. There is a need and an opportunity to engage in critical reflection of the dominant paradigms in the global environmental health community, including how they affect decision-making and collective learning. These paradigms should be adapted as needed toward the integration of diverse perspectives and the uptake of systems thinking. Participatory modeling, complexity-aware monitoring, and virtual simulation modeling can help achieve this. Additionally, virtual simulation modeling is relatively inexpensive and can provide a low-stakes environment for testing interventions before implementation.
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Plastic pollution accumulating in an area of the environment is considered “poorly reversible” if natural mineralization processes occurring there are slow and engineered remediation solutions are improbable. Should negative outcomes in these areas arise as a consequence of plastic pollution, they will be practically irreversible. Potential impacts from poorly reversible plastic pollution include changes to carbon and nutrient cycles; habitat changes within soils, sediments, and aquatic ecosystems; co-occurring biological impacts on endangered or keystone species; ecotoxicity; and related societal impacts. The rational response to the global threat posed by accumulating and poorly reversible plastic pollution is to rapidly reduce plastic emissions through reductions in consumption of virgin plastic materials, along with internationally coordinated strategies for waste management.
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We described in 2017 how weathering plastic litter in the marine environment fulfils two of three criteria to impose a planetary boundary threat related to “chemical pollution and the release of novel entities”: (1) planetary-scale exposure, which (2) is not readily reversible. Whether marine plastics meet the third criterion, (3) eliciting a disruptive impact on vital earth system processes, was uncertain. Since then, several important discoveries have been made to motivate a re-evaluation. A key issue is if weathering macroplastics, microplastics, nanoplastics, and their leachates have an inherently higher potential to elicit adverse effects than natural particles of the same size. We summarize novel findings related to weathering plastic in the context of the planetary boundary threat criteria that demonstrate (1) increasing exposure, (2) fate processes leading to poorly reversible pollution, and (3) (eco)toxicological hazards and their thresholds. We provide evidence that the third criterion could be fulfilled for weathering plastics in sensitive environments and therefore conclude that weathering plastics pose a planetary boundary threat. We suggest future research priorities to better understand (eco)toxicological hazards modulated by increasing exposure and continuous weathering processes, to better parametrize the planetary boundary threshold for plastic pollution.
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Background The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) has been implemented to achieve a good ecological status in European water bodies requiring macrophyte community assessment as one of the biological quality elements (BQEs). While in several lakes in Schleswig-Holstein (Germany) different BQEs improved within recent years, no recovery of macrophyte communities in some lakes could be achieved, despite the reduction of nutrient input and eutrophication. Due to the fact that no impairment of phytoplankton could be observed, toxic stress due to sediment contamination was hypothesized as a possible limiting factor of macrophyte community recovery. Results Sediment toxicity was investigated by performing an extensive chemical screening of sediment contamination and a risk assessment based on toxic unit (TU) summation, using equilibrium water concentrations and algal toxicity as surrogates for lacking data on macrophyte toxicity. Possible indirect risks via toxic pressure on grazer were assessed via TUs based on crustaceans. The study revealed algal TUs of more than one order of magnitude below chronic toxicity thresholds in lakes with high and good status of the macrophyte community and increasing concentrations and frequency of exceedance of toxicity thresholds for lakes with moderate-to-bad status. The antifouling biocides irgarol and diuron were identified as major risk drivers. In addition, PAHs and glyphosate could not be ruled out to contribute to toxic pressure on macrophytes. Despite exceedance of toxicity thresholds for crustaceans, no connection of the ecological status of the macrophyte communities with toxic risks to grazers could be observed. Conclusions Our study suggests that in a multiple pressure situation the toxic pressure created due to the contamination of sediments with antifouling biocides is one of the limiting factors for the recovery of macrophyte communities in impaired lakes of Schleswig-Holstein. This finding is in agreement with a Europe-wide survey on almost 47,000 sites suggesting that no good ecological status can be observed at sites with contamination exceeding toxicity thresholds. Similar to the survey, our study indicates additional stressors preventing the achievement of a good quality status of the lake ecosystems.
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For the past six decades, human health risk assessment of chemicals has relied on in vivo data from human epidemiological and experimental animal toxicological studies to inform the derivation of cancer and non-toxicity values. The ongoing evolution of this risk assessment paradigm in an environmental landscape of data-poor chemicals has highlighted the need to develop and implement non-testing methods, so-called New Approach Methodologies (NAMs). NAMs include a growing number of in silico and in vitro data streams designed to inform hazard properties of chemicals, including kinetics and dynamics at different levels of biological organization, environmental fate and transport, and exposure. NAMs provide a fit-for-purpose science-basis for human hazard and risk characterization of chemicals ranging from data-gap filling applications to broad evidence-based decision-making. Systematic assembly and delivery of empirical and predicted data for chemicals are paramount to advancing chemical evaluation, and software tools serve an essential role in delivering these data to the scientific community. The CompTox Chemicals Dashboard (from here on referred to as the “Dashboard”) is one such tool and is a publicly available web-based application developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency to provide access to chemistry, toxicity and exposure information for ~900,000 chemicals. The Dashboard is increasingly becoming a valuable resource for assessors tasked with the evaluation of potential human health risks associated with chemical exposures. In this context, the significant amount of information present in the Dashboard facilitates: 1) assembly of information on physicochemical properties and environmental fate and transport and exposure parameters and metrics; 2) identification of cancer and non-cancer health effects from extant human and experimental animal studies in the public domain and/or information not available in the public domain (i.e., “grey literature”); 3) systematic literature searching and review for developing cancer and non-cancer hazard evidence bases; and 4) access to mechanistic information that can aid or augment the analysis of traditional toxicology evidence bases, or potentially, serve as the primary basis for informing hazard identification and dose–response when traditional bioassay data are lacking. Finally, in silico predictive tools developed to conduct structure–activity or read-across analyses are also available within the Dashboard. This practical tutorial is intended to address key questions from the human health risk assessment community dealing with chemicals in both food and in the environment. Perspectives for future development or refinement of the Dashboard highlight foreseen activities to further support the research and risk assessment community in cancer and non-cancer chemical evaluations.
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Chemicals used in building materials can be a major passive emission source indoors, associated with the deterioration of indoor environmental quality. This study aims to screen the various chemicals used in building materials for potential near-field human exposures and related health risks, identifying chemicals and products of concern to inform risk reduction efforts. We propose a mass balance-based and high-throughput suited model for predicting chemical emissions from building materials considering indoor sorption. Using this model, we performed a screening-level human exposure assessment for chemicals in building materials, starting from product chemical composition data reported in the Pharos Building Products Database for the USA. Health risks and MAximum chemical Contents from High-Throughput Screening (MACHTS) were determined, combining exposure estimates with toxicity information. Exposures were estimated for >300 unique chemical-product combinations from the Pharos databases, of which 73% (25%) had non-cancer (cancer) toxicity data available. We identified 55 substances as chemicals of high concern, with actual chemical contents exceeding MACHTS by up to a factor 10⁵, in particular diisocyanates and formaldehyde. This stresses the need for more refined investigations to select safer alternatives. This study serves as a suitable starting point for prioritizing chemicals/products and thus developing safer and more sustainable building materials.
Article
The bigger picture Achieving the various goals of the global sustainable development agenda poses complex challenges for the chemical industry and society as a whole. Systemic innovation in chemical research and development, assessment, management, and education is required to facilitate a transition toward a sustainable future. Such an innovation can benefit, to a large extent, from the increased uptake and systematic adoption of digitalization and digital tools to optimize the management of entire chemical life cycles, from chemical supply chains and chemical manufacturing to use and end-of-life. Digitalization in chemistry will enable development of more flexible data exchange models, more transparent international and cross-sector chemical information transfer, and chemistries that are both safe and sustainable by design. With that, digitalization is key to a radical transformation to more sustainable and collaborative business models in the growing chemical industry sector.
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While it is well recognized that the frequency and intensity of flood events are increasing worldwide, the environmental, economic, and societal consequences of remobilization and distribution of pollutants during flood events are not widely recognized. Loss of life, damage to infrastructure, and monetary cleanup costs associated with floods are important direct effects. However, there is a lack of attention towards the indirect effects of pollutants that are remobilized and redistributed during such catastrophic flood events, particularly considering the known toxic effects of substances present in flood-prone areas. The global examination of floods caused by a range of extreme events (e.g., heavy rainfall, tsunamis, extra- and tropical storms) and subsequent distribution of sediment-bound pollutants are needed to improve interdisciplinary investigations. Such examinations will aid in the remediation and management action plans necessary to tackle issues of environmental pollution from flooding. River basin-wide and coastal lowland action plans need to balance the opposing goals of flood retention, catchment conservation, and economical use of water.