A long-term strategy for preventing exposure to hazardous industrial pollutants is to reduce their use in the first place through cleaner production. Moving toward eco-efficiency, as this goal is often defined, means that industry must reduce raw material inputs – chemicals, natural resources, energy, water – and at the same time reduce air, water, and solid pollutants for each unit of production (92). This push toward cleaner production is typically driven by environmental and economic concerns rather than by health concerns, although it seems certain that cleaner production would benefit public health as well.
Unlike the industrialized countries, developing countries have the opportunity to leapfrog over some polluting industries and technologies into cleaner production. Recent advances in information systems, telecommunications, biotechnology, new materials, and miniaturization portend dramatic reductions in material and energy inputs (93). Pollution monitoring and control technologies have also improved over the past 20 years. If proper incentives are in place, developing countries need not build or import yesterday’s dirty technology, as all too often occurs today. The key to spurring this technological change and transfer is to send clear social, economic, and regulatory signals to companies and to ensure that markets for environmentally benign technologies will continue to grow (94).
The potential for improved investments is enormous. The current trend toward globalization, with its accompanying investment flows, means that private companies are increasingly influencing industrial change, much more so than public investments or development assistance. Indeed, roughly 70 percent of net resource flows to the developing world now derive from the private sector (95). Especially in the newly industrializing, fast-growth economies – those facing the greatest risks from unchecked industrial pollution – conditions are conducive for financing environmentally sound technology. The World Bank estimates, for example, that firms that have yet to be established will account for more than 80 percent of industrial output by 2010 (96). Indonesia has already made strides in this direction. For instance, the new pulp and paper mills being built there have pulping and bleaching technologies on par with those now being proposed as the U.S. environmental standard (97). Although the initial costs of cleaner technologies may be higher than those of older technologies, the provision of financial and technical assistance can encourage their adoption. Such a strategy will offer economic savings and environmental and health benefits long into the future.