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5. Chemical substances and groups of substances/register of substances

5.1 General
5.2 Explanatory notes on content of "register of substances"
5.3 Selection of substances
5.4 Register of substances

5.1 General

Environment-oriented laws, directives and recommendations are generally drawn up on the basis of environmental media/sectors (e.g. EC Water Protection Directive, German Soil Conservation Concept, Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control, TA-Luft). The specifications are made by pertinent authorities or advisory institutes (such as Federal Health Authority, DVGW or IWAR) and generally relate to (sovereign) areas. Against the backdrop of different starting points (economic, geographical, ecological etc.) the laws enforced have a limited sphere of influence in terms of the area they cover. Given such prerequisites they cannot always be simply transferred to other ecological and/or political situations. To quote an example, the demands made on water quality in arid climates are completely different to those imposed in Central Europe. On the other hand, the temperature stipulated for waste water introduced into a receiving stream will be far lower than in tropical or subtropical zones.

5.2 Explanatory notes on content of "register of substances"

The compendium section "Register of substances" takes the regulations (e.g. surface water) from various countries, which are usually referenced to utilisation (e.g. sector) and area, and breaks them down on a substance-specific basis with an indication of their origin and the individual stipulations affecting them for the purpose of comparison. This is done on levels with differing degrees of differentiation so that this section of the compendium can be of assistance with decision-making above all in situations where:

- there are no stipulations when planning individual utilisation,

- the ecological effect of a planning measure goes far beyond existing usage regulations and further assessment is therefore necessary,

- existing regulations are to be checked.

The information sheets in the register of substances not only contain official limit/guide values for the various chemical substances, but also a wealth of assessment criteria. The additional data in the information sheets were structured so as to avoid a detailed text section with explanatory notes and to provide users with the necessary details in clear-cut form in the relevant places.

The diversity of data often made it necessary to evaluate a wide variety of literature sources with the accompanying research work likewise resulting in a whole range of pertinent, continuously updated sources such as loose-leaf binders and handbooks. These appear in bold print in the bibliography and source list. Following the analysis of suitable information media and data sources, evaluation was essentially based on the specialist catalogues/materials of the State Library in Berlin, the Library of the Federal Environment Agency in Berlin, the Library of the Technical University in Berlin and a wide range of faculty libraries at the university (environmental engineering, chemistry, geography, landscape ecology).

The information sheets encompass the following data blocks; details are outlined in the explanatory notes which precede the register of substances:

- basic chemicophysical data

- assessment/comments

- origin and use

- toxicity

- environmental standards

- environmental behaviour

- comparison and reference values

The data sources investigated provided a wealth of different information of differing quality. The project framework likewise lent itself to the establishment of focal points both in terms of substance selection and depth of investigation. The items dealt with/information sheets compiled are therefore in no way all intended to reflect the same level of detail.

5.3 Selection of substances

Generally speaking, all substances found in the environment - irrespective of whether they are natural or anthropogenic - are of importance to the ecosystem and thus of relevance to the environment. Numerous authors have endeavoured to compile and select environmentally relevant substances and - in line with their differing premises - have produced substance lists containing between approx. 100,000 (INFUCHS data bank; acc. WAGNER 1989) and 60 substances (BUA, 1989). The majority range however between several hundred and a few thousand entries. An interesting outline of the problems involved is given by the BUA (1989) together with a range of chemicals lists from other countries.

Within the framework of environmental impact assessments (EIA), all anthropogenically induced material changes to the natural environment and their effects are of potential interest. The number of substances involved is thus of such proportions that it will not be possible even in the long term to prepare them for practical EIA implementation. The CES reflects the following priorities in terms of substance selection.

1. Of the numerous compounds in existence, the substances selected were those which are already covered by legal provisions. On the one hand, they represent the core zone by which EIAs must be guided on account of clear-cut specifications; on the other hand, it can be assumed that competent authorities have already classified these substances as being particularly hazardous to the environment since laws are not usually passed until the hazards emanating from a given substance have been scientifically proven.

Both the number of substances subject to legislation and the specified limit values differ greatly from country to country. Environmental legislation in the Federal Republic of Germany is relatively authoritative and progressive in international terms. Along with EC stipulations it represents the basis for the substance selection used here from the legislative sector. The corresponding general table in the substance register "environmentally relevant chemical substances" was based on:

- list I of the Directive 76/464/EEC for the environment medium "water",
- the Soil Conservation Concept of the German Federal Government for the environment medium "soil" and
- the Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control TA-Luft for the environment medium "air".

Assessment was made in line with a list compiled by WAGNER (1989). The regulations outlined above contain 171, 228, and 280 substances, respectively. Allowing for once-only listing of substances which appear in several regulations thus produces a total of 525 compounds.

2. The 525 substances covered by legislation were supplemented to include 6 other substances (atrazine, barium, carbaryl, hydrogen fluoride, methyl bromide, ozone) considered to be of environmental relevance with the result that the index contains a grand total of 531 substances. It is, however, not to be considered as final and will be extended. Thus, for example, there is no reference to important nutrients such as phosphates and nitrite. Furthermore, compilation of the information sheets revealed a small number of relevant substances which have not been covered to date. The ultimate scope will probably be between 560 and 570 substances.

Number of substances and substance groups arranged according to legal provisions and in-depth data sources


Regulated or named substances

Legal provisions/data sources Total of which:
listed in the table
of which:
treated in information sheet (register of substances)
1. EC Water Protection Directive List 1 (1982)




2. Catalogue of substances hazardous to water (1987)

approx. 600



3. Soil Conservation Concept (1986/87)




4. TA-Luft (1986)




5. MAK values (1989)

approx. 600



6. Environmentally relevant substances selected for CES (1990) which are not named in 1,3,4




Grand total  

(single listing only)


TA-Luft: Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control as per Federal Immission Control Act

MAK values: Maximum workplace concentration (s.DFG, 1989)

Note: The table Chemical substances of environmental relevance arranged according to selected laws and guidelines lists some substances which are not treated as a single substance in the Register of substances but which may be assigned to a group of substances whose information sheet exists in this register (e.g. acenaphthene is a member of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heptachloro-dibenzo-p-dioxin belongs to the dioxins group). Thus, information on 140 substances from this table may be refound in the register. The page references of these substances are put in parentheses.

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