Specific chemicals cannot be used and disposed unless the risks they pose are known.
In 1976, the United Nations Environment Programme established the International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC) to collect and disseminate information about specific chemicals and their usage and disposal risks. IRPTC operates through a network of national and international organizations, industries and external contractors. National correspondents in 113 countries feed information into IRPTC and relay it back to interested parties. IRPTC keeps a database of over 800 chemicals. In addition, there are special files on waste management and disposal, on chemicals currently being tested for toxic effects and on national regulations covering 9,000 substances. Legal and waste management files can be accessed via computer through telephone lines. In 1989, UNEP adopted the amended London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International Trade, which includes a procedure for prior informed consent (PIC). The PIC's intent is to ensure that substances banned or restricted in one country are not dumped in another. With UNITAR, IRPTC provides training programmes to assist developing countries in implementing the London Guidelines and PIC, and also in setting up national registers of potentially toxic chemicals.
The European Union's official list of hazardous substances contains about 2000 chemicals. In 1994, 70 new substances were added in September and another 50 in December. The Directive on the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances was originally adopted in 1967.