The large-scale production of chemicals has grown steadily since the middle of the 19th century. Now virtually every man-made product involves the use of chemicals in some manner and new chemicals are being developed every year.
Technically, a chemical substance is a form of matter that has constant chemical composition that results in physical properties that can be measured to characterize it. Chemical substance can also more broadly connote a substance produced by, used for, or related to chemical operations or production. The toxicity of a chemical substance refers to its ability to damage an organ system, disrupt a biochemical process, or disturb an enzyme system. As we scale up production of chemicals, especially those that are toxic, the risk of exposure also grows.
While some chemicals cause direct adverse affects on wildlife or humans, others cause changes in the environment that present additional hazards—volatile organic chemicals and oxides of nitrogen give rise to tropospheric ozone (smog), and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) degrade the stratospheric ozone layer allowing increased ultraviolet radiation to impact on the earth’s surface.
Exposure to chemicals that are persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic can occur over extended time periods, affecting generations of humans and wildlife.
- Uniform Hazardous Substances Act of Illinois: Regulates the handling and disclosure of toxic chemicals.
- Illinois Chemical Safety Act: Establishes a system of organized responses at the state and local level to releases of chemical substances into the environment.
- Cadmium-Safe Kids Act: Restricts the amount of cadmium in the paint or surface coating of children’s jewelry.