This paper provides an overview of the evolution of pollution problems in the Northeast Atlantic and associated responses and considers the effectiveness of these measures on environmental contamination. It identifies shortcomings in past practices and shows how marine environmental pollution may be perpetuated if new products and processes release novel contaminants or “emerging substances” without adequate management on a precautionary basis. The study concludes that it is necessary to develop innovative techniques capable of making reasonable quantitative estimates of not only environmental pathways, loads, and concentrations but also the socioeconomic drivers and “upstream” control measures (control, reduction, or elimination of emissions) so that a clear understanding of the causes and effects of our actions can be obtained. The development of a European Observatory for Emerging Substances to coordinate concerns, observations, and practices is suggested as a proactive approach for anticipating emerging problems.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1