Chemicals management statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from September 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: October 2015.
Figure 1: Production of chemicals, EU-28, 2004–13 (¹)
(2004 = 100) - Source: Eurostat (tsdph320) and (ten00011)
Figure 2: Production of chemicals harmful to the aquatic environment, EU-28, 2004–13 (¹)
(million tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (ten00011)
Figure 3: Production of toxic chemicals, EU-28, 2004–13 (¹)
(million tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (tsdph320)

Work on European Union (EU) statistics concerning hazardous substances started in the mid-1990s when a set of environmental pressure indicators (EPIs) related to chemicals were developed. More recently, a set of indicators to monitor the effectiveness of the Regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH) have been developed. This article presents an analysis of indicators that have been developed and compiled by Eurostat, covering the production of industrial chemicals.

Main statistical findings

Total production of chemicals

Figure 1 shows the development of EU-28 chemicals’ production since 2004, using an index based on the level (or quantity) of output. The production of chemicals in the EU-28 increased each year between 2005 and 2007, rising overall by 4.4 % to peak at 371 million tonnes in 2007. During the financial and economic crisis, production fell by 31 million tonnes (or 8.4 %) in 2008 and by a further 43 million tonnes (or 12.8 %) in 2009. The rebound in activity in 2010 more than made up for the losses reported in 2009. In 2011, the production of chemicals in the EU-28 decreased again and then subsequently stabilised during the period 2011–13 at 320–330 million tonnes, which was still 40–50 million tonnes below the pre-crisis peak in 2007. The latest data available for 2013 show that chemicals production fell slightly compared with the year before, as the level of output was 322 million tonnes, which was the second lowest level during the period shown in Figure 1, higher only than the level in 2009. The production of chemicals was largely concentrated in western Europe: Germany was the largest producer in the EU-28, followed by France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Production of environmentally harmful chemicals

Figure 2 presents the development of the production of chemicals that were harmful to the aquatic environment, analysed according to five classes of environmental effects. The aggregated production of these five classes of chemicals in the EU-28 grew by 1.8 % overall between 2004 and 2007 to reach a peak of 155 million tonnes. The production of chemicals that were harmful to the aquatic environment fell by 24 million tonnes (or 15.7 %) during the next two years to a low of 131 million tonnes in 2009. As was the case for the overall production of chemicals, there was a strong rebound in the production of chemicals that were harmful to the aquatic environment in 2010, followed by three consecutive year-on-year reductions during the period 2011–13. By 2013, there were 134 million tonnes of chemicals that were harmful to the aquatic environment produced in the EU-28, which was lower than every year during the period from 2004–12, other than 2009.

In the EU-28, the share of chemicals that were harmful to the aquatic environment in the total chemicals production was relatively unchanged over the period 2004–13, fluctuating between 41.5 % and 44.2 %. Having peaked at 44.2 % in 2009 (when the overall production of chemicals was at its lowest level), the share fell during three subsequent years. At the end of the time series, in 2013, the share of chemicals that were harmful to the aquatic environment in total chemicals production was 41.6 %.

There was a wide degree of variation in the development of output for the five different classes of chemicals that were harmful to the aquatic environment. The largest overall increase in EU-28 output between 2004 and 2013 was recorded for chemicals with moderate chronic effects (as the volume of production rose by 2.17 % over the period under consideration), while there was a significant decline in the output of chemicals with chronic environmental impacts (-20.4 %) and chemicals with severe chronic effects (-14.3 %).

Production of toxic chemicals

Figure 3 presents the development of EU-28 production of toxic chemicals, analysed according to five toxicity classes. The pattern of production for toxic chemicals largely followed the same basic development as that observed for all chemicals, insofar as output rose during the period 2004–07, after which there was a sizeable decline in production (that coincided with the financial and economic crisis), followed by a strong rebound in 2010. In 2011, the overall production of toxic chemicals decreased again, before stabilising in 2012 and decreasing once again in 2013.

The EU-28’s production of toxic chemicals (all five toxicity classes together) increased by 0.6 % between 2004 and 2007 to reach a peak of 235 million tonnes. Output fell by 20 million tonnes in 2008 (or by 8.4 %) and by the same amount in 2009 (or 9.3 %) to a level of 196 million tonnes. The rebound in activity in 2010 (up 11.7 %) made up for the losses recorded in 2009 but was followed by further reductions in 2011 (-5.0 %) and 2013 (-3.0 %). As a result of these developments, the EU-28’s level of production of toxic chemicals in 2013 was 202 million tonnes, some 32 million tonnes less than in 2004.

The overall share of all toxic chemicals (all five classes) in total EU-28 chemicals production generally followed a gradual downward path over the 10 years shown in Figure 3. From a peak of 66.0 % of total chemicals production in 2004, the share of all toxic chemicals fell to 63.5 % in 2008. While there was a spike in the share of all toxic chemicals in 2009 (which may be attributed to a rapid decline in the overall production of chemicals during the financial and economic crisis, rather than an increase in the output of all toxic chemicals), the share subsequently continued to fall, reaching 62.7 % in 2013. With the level of output of all toxic chemicals falling during the period 2004–13 and with the share of all toxic chemicals in the total production of chemicals also declining, there was some evidence that the production of chemicals that are toxic to human health and / or harmful to ecosystems was being decoupled from overall chemicals production.

EU-28 production of the most toxic chemicals — carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) chemicals — fluctuated between 34 and 36 million tonnes over the period from 2004 to 2007. Output fell by 5.3 million tonnes (or 14.8 %) between 2007 and 2008 to stand at 30.6 million tonnes. There was a recovery in the level of production in 2009 and 2010, as the output of CMR chemicals rose to 34.7 million tonnes — back to a level of output that was similar to that recorded prior to the financial and economic crisis. From 2010, the level of production of CMR chemicals declined once more at a relatively steady rate to reach 30.7 million tonnes by 2013.

The relative share of CMR chemicals in total EU-28 chemical production fell from 9.9 % in 2004 to 9.0 % by 2008. After a jump to 10.9 % in 2009 the relative share decreased to 9.5 % by 2013.

Data sources and availability

The indicators presented in this article are derived from annual statistics on the production of manufactured goods (Prodcom). Statistics are available from 1995 onwards in principle, while statistics on toxic chemicals as well as environmentally harmful chemicals start in 1996. Note that data for the EU-28 aggregate are only available from reference year 2004 onwards.

The information presented on the production of chemicals harmful to the aquatic environment and the production of toxic chemicals has been compiled from detailed product statistics. As well as the total figures, each of these aggregates is available with a division into five effect classes: these classes of aquatic environmental effects and toxicity to human health follow official classifications in EU legislation based on scientific expert judgement. It should be noted that the indicators do not describe the actual risks associated with the use of chemicals, but instead their level of production in quantity terms. Indeed, production and consumption are not synonymous with exposure, as some chemicals are handled in closed systems, or as intermediate goods in controlled supply chains. With the introduction of REACH, the classification system was updated according to the environmental classification of substances / globally harmonised system of classification and labelling of chemicals (CLP / GHS) system.

Environmentally harmful chemicals are divided into five classes based on their effects on the aquatic environment. The effects, beginning with the most harmful, are:

  • severe chronic environmental effects;
  • significant chronic environmental effects;
  • moderate chronic environmental effects;
  • chronic environmental effects;
  • significant acute environmental effects.

An analysis of the production of chemicals harmful to the aquatic environment can be used to monitor any developments in shifting production from more harmful to less harmful chemicals. The classification focuses on aquatic toxicity and seeks to take into account the inherent eco-toxicity of chemical substances, their potential for bioaccumulation and their persistence in the environment. For this purpose, substance specific data on eco-toxicity, biodegradability and bioaccumulation potential have been used. The identification of chemicals harmful to the aquatic environment is primarily based on the official environmental classification of substances (CLP).

The indicator on toxic chemicals is a sustainable development indicator within the theme for public health; it is classified as an operational objective and target for the determinants of health. Toxic chemicals may be divided into five toxicity classes. The classes, beginning with the most dangerous, are:

  • carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) chemicals;
  • chronic toxic chemicals;
  • very toxic chemicals;
  • toxic chemicals;
  • chemicals classified as harmful.

An analysis of the production of toxic chemicals can be used to monitor any developments in shifting production from more toxic to less toxic chemicals and thereby address an important objective of REACH: to reduce risks through the substitution of hazardous by less hazardous substances.

In 2009, in collaboration with the Directorates General of the European Commission responsible for enterprise and industry and for the environment, Eurostat published a baseline study providing a set of indicators to monitor the effectiveness of the REACH Regulation. In 2012, Eurostat released an update of this study as well as a summary


Statistical indicators provide information on chemicals that are harmful to human health or / and to the environment. They may be used to measure progress towards a number of objectives. Indeed, initiatives such as the EU’s sustainable development strategy and international agreements made under the auspices of the United Nations require statistical indicators in order to assess whether there has been any progress in the management of chemicals.

The General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 — also referred to as the 7th Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) — guides the EU’s environment policy up to 2020. It contains proposals for further actions that promote the implementation of REACH and aims to develop — by 2018 — a ‘Union strategy for a non-toxic environment’ that is conducive to innovation and the development of sustainable substitutes including non-chemical solutions, building on cross-cutting measures to be undertaken by 2015 to ensure:

  • the safety of manufactured nanomaterials and materials with similar properties;
  • the minimisation of exposure to endocrine disruptors;
  • appropriate regulatory approaches to address combination effects of chemicals; and
  • the minimisation of exposure to chemicals in products, including inter alia imported products, with a view to promoting non-toxic material cycles and reducing indoor exposure to harmful substances.

After the United Nations Rio+20 summit there was agreement on a set of Sustainable Development Goals. The agreement called on its signatories to take action on two specific areas related to the production of chemicals, namely, that ‘by 2020 the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle shall be achieved’ (Goal 3.9: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being across all ages) and that ‘by 2030 the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals will be substantially reduced’ (Goal 12.1: ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns).

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Index of production of toxic chemicals, by toxicity class (tsdph320)
Production of environmentally harmful chemicals, by environmental effect class (ten00011)
Production of toxic chemicals, by toxicity class (tsdph320)

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links