Conflicts of Interest in the Assessment of Chemicals, Waste, and Pollution


Andreas Schäffer, Institute for Environmental Research, RWTH Aachen University, 52074 Aachen, Germany.
Ksenia J. Groh, Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.
Gabriel Sigmund, Environmental Technology, Wageningen University and Research, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.
David Azoulay, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Washington, D.C. 20005, United States.
Thomas Backhaus, Institute for Environmental Research, RWTH Aachen University, 52074 Aachen, Germany.
Michael G. Bertram, Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Environmental Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå 907 36, Sweden.
Bethanie Carney Almroth, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, 40530 Gothenburg, Sweden.
Ian T. Cousins, Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden.
Alex T. Ford, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth PO4 9LY, United Kingdom.
Joan O. Grimalt, Department of Environmental Chemistry, IDAEA-CSIC, 08034 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
Yago Guida, National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba 305-8506, Ibaraki, Japan.
Maria C. Hansson, The Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC), Lund University, 22362 Lund, Sweden.
Yunsun Jeong, Division of Environmental Health, Korea Environment Institute (KEI), 30147 Sejong, Republic of Korea.
Rainer Lohmann, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02881, United States.
David Michaels, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. 20052, United States.
Leonie Mueller, Institute for Environmental Research, RWTH Aachen University, 52074 Aachen, Germany.
Jane Muncke, Food Packaging Forum Foundation, 8045 Zurich, Switzerland.
Gunilla Öberg, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.
Marcos A. Orellana, Global Toxics and Human Rights Project, American University Washington College of Law, Washington, D.C. 20016, United States.
Edmond Sanganyado, Department of Applied Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST, United Kingdom.
Ralf Bernhard Schäfer, Institute for Environmental Sciences Landau, RPTU Kaiserslautern-Landau, 76829 Landau, Germany.
Ishmail Sheriff, School of Civil Engineering, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 14300 Nibong Tebal, Penang, Malaysia.
Ryan C. Sullivan, Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15217, United States.
Noriyuki Suzuki, National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba 305-8506, Ibaraki, Japan.
Laura N. Vandenberg, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health & Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, United States.
Marta Venier, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, United States.
Penny Vlahos, Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, Groton, Connecticut 06340, United States.
Martin Wagner, Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7491 Trondheim, Norway.
Fang Wang, State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China.
Mengjiao Wang, Greenpeace Research Laboratories, Department of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4RN, United Kingdom.
Anna Soehl, International Panel on Chemical Pollution, 8044 Zürich, Switzerland.
Marlene Ågerstrand, Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden.

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Environmental science & technology








conflict of interest; ecosystem health; human health; science−policy panel


Pollution by chemicals and waste impacts human and ecosystem health on regional, national, and global scales, resulting, together with climate change and biodiversity loss, in a triple planetary crisis. Consequently, in 2022, countries agreed to establish an intergovernmental science-policy panel (SPP) on chemicals, waste, and pollution prevention, complementary to the existing intergovernmental science-policy bodies on climate change and biodiversity. To ensure the SPP's success, it is imperative to protect it from conflicts of interest (COI). Here, we (i) define and review the implications of COI, and its relevance for the management of chemicals, waste, and pollution; (ii) summarize established tactics to manufacture doubt in favor of vested interests, i.e., to counter scientific evidence and/or to promote misleading narratives favorable to financial interests; and (iii) illustrate these with selected examples. This analysis leads to a review of arguments for and against chemical industry representation in the SPP's work. We further (iv) rebut an assertion voiced by some that the chemical industry should be directly involved in the panel's work because it possesses data on chemicals essential for the panel's activities. Finally, (v) we present steps that should be taken to prevent the detrimental impacts of COI in the work of the SPP. In particular, we propose to include an independent auditor's role in the SPP to ensure that participation and processes follow clear COI rules. Among others, the auditor should evaluate the content of the assessments produced to ensure unbiased representation of information that underpins the SPP's activities.


Environmental and Occupational Health