Present environmental policy in the countries around the North East Atlantic is in a state of transition; in part made up of old attitudes that assumed the environment to be largely capable of absorbing contamination, in part a new precaution that recognises that we cannot fully predict the result of such actions. Precaution will prevail, and be implemented by a form of pollution prevention, known as clean production, that emphasises the need to reduce and eliminate pollution at all stages of the manufacturing cycle. There are three reasons why change is inevitable. First, toxicological problems, along with serious ecological uncertainties, mean that we will be unable to predict ‘safe' levels of marine contamination for the foreseeable future. Second, demonstration projects make it clear that clean production is now feasible and economically attractive, even in ‘problem' industries. Third, the targets now being set for the reduction and elimination of potentially problematic substances – for instance by the 1990 North Sea Conference and the 1992 Paris Convention Ministerial meeting – have developed to the point where clean production provides the only feasible means of implementation. This change has significant implications for the water treatment industry.

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