Archive:Chemicals production statistics

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Data from September 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
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)

This article presents an analysis of indicators that have been developed and compiled by Eurostat, covering the production of industrial chemicals with a particular focus on substances being toxic to human health or harmful to the environment.

Main statistical findings

Total production of chemicals

Figure 1 shows the development of EU-28 chemicals production since 2004, calculated as indices of the total production of industrial chemicals, of environmentally harmful chemicals, and of substances that harm human health. The total production of industrial 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 remained relatively stable during the period 2011–2013 (327, 330 and 322 million tonnes), which was still 40–50 million tonnes below the pre-crisis peak in 2007. The latest value for 2013 was the second lowest during the period shown in Figure 1, higher only than the level in 2009. The production of industrial 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 are harmful to the aquatic environment, shown as an index in Figure 1, analysed in more detail according to five classes of environmental effects. The aggregated production of these five classes 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 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 environmentally harmful chemicals in 2010, followed by three consecutive year-on-year reductions during the period 2011–2013. In 2013 there were 134 million tonnes of these chemicals produced in the EU-28, which was lower than every year during the period from 2004–2012, other than 2009.

In the EU-28, the share of environmentally harmful chemicals in the total chemicals production was relatively unchanged over the period 2004–2013, 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. 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 production for the five different classes of chemicals that were harmful to the aquatic environment. The largest overall increase in EU-28 production 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 production 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 shown as an index in Figure 1, analysed according to five toxicity classes. The pattern of production for toxic chemicals largely followed the same basic development as that observed for all industrial chemicals, insofar as production rose during the period 2004–2007, 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 production of toxic chemicals decreased again, stabilised in 2011-2012 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. Production 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 share of all toxic chemicals 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 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 production of all toxic chemicals), the share subsequently continued to fall, reaching 62.7 % in 2013, see also in Figure 1. 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. Production 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 of CMRs in 2009 and 2010, as the production of CMR chemicals rose to 34.7 million tonnes — back to a level 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 production 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, see Figure 2. An analysis of the production of environmentally harmful chemicals 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 - determinants of health. Toxic chemicals are divided into five toxicity classes, see Figure 3. 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 toxic to human health and harmful 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 such as the ‘Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management’ (SAICM), a policy framework to foster the sound management of chemicals made under the auspices of the United Nations, require statistical indicators in order to assess 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.

The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals. In June 2014, an Open Working Group of the General Assembly issued a proposal including 17 goals and 169 targets, for adoption by the UN General Assembly on 25-27 September 2015.

Three targets in the proposal call for action in areas related to the production of chemicals. These are target 3.9: "By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination", under Goal 3 "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being across all ages"; target 6.3 "By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and increasing recycling and safe reuse by [x] per cent globally" (where the "x" is to be defined at a later stage), under Goal 6 "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all"; and target 12.4 "By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment", under Goal 12 "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