UN experts target toxic flame retardant HBCD for control under global chemicals treaty wo, okt 19, 2011

Stockholm Convention POPs Review Committee assesses hazards of two industrial chemicals nominated for elimination and agrees to prepare guidance on alternatives to pesticide endosulfan

Stockholm Convention POPs Review Committee assesses hazards of two industrial chemicals nominated for elimination and agrees to prepare guidance on alternatives to pesticide endosulfan

Geneva (Switzerland), 14 October 2011 – The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee, a scientific body to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), took action this week to help eliminate POPs from the global marketplace and protect human health and the environment. The Committee adopted more than a dozen separate decisions, including one recommending that the chemical hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) be listed under the Convention.

HBCD is a flame retardant used mainly in polystyrene. It is also used in textile coatings and in high impact polystyrene for electrical and electronic equipment. HBCD was proposed by Norway for listing under the Convention as a chemical slated for elimination from the global marketplace.

"With this week's decisions, the POPs Review Committee has again cleared the high bar set by Governments for rigorous scientific review of chemicals proposed for action and advanced the global agenda of eliminating the world's most dangerous toxic chemicals," said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

Meeting for the seventh time, the committee of 31 scientific experts initiated risk profiles of two industrial chemicals newly proposed for elimination under the global chemicals treaty. The committee found evidence that chlorinated naphthalenes and hexachlorobutadiene are persistent organic pollutants, which bio-accumulate in organisms (i.e. increases in concentration up the food chain), are transported over long distances from their sources, and are toxic to the environment and human health.

Chlorinated naphthalenes (CNs) were used for decades for wood preservation, as additive to paints and engine oils, and for cable insulation and in capacitors. Until the 1970s, CNs were high volume chemicals. Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) was a widely used fumigant used to control pests and as an industrial solvent. HCBD also occurs as a by-product during production of other chlorinated solvents.

The Committee agreed to continue its assessment of a third chemical, pentachlorophenol (PCP), which is an organochlorine compound used as a pesticide and a disinfectant.

All three chemicals were proposed by the European Union for consideration for listing under the Convention.

The Committee also agreed to prepare guidance on alternatives to the pesticide endosulfan, expanding its work into a new area recently mandated by the Parties to the Convention. Endosulfan, which is commonly used to control agricultural pests, was added to the Convention's list of 22 POPs at the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in April 2011.

In addition, the Committee agreed to evaluate the POPs characteristics of the chemical alternatives to DDT. DDT is widely used in tropical and sub-tropical countries to control mosquitoes which serve as a vector for the deadly malaria parasites.

The Committee examined implications of the 2011 study, Climate Change and POPs: Predicting the Impacts and agreed to develop guidance on evaluating how global warming processes affect the fate, transport and toxicity of POPs.

The seventh meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee was held from 10 - 14 October 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Note to Editors

The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) is composed of 31 members appointed by the Conference of the Parties – who are all highly placed scientists representing their regions around the globe. The meetings of the Committee are also open to observers from the NGO community, industry, research organizations and governments. Its mandate is to review proposals to add new chemicals to the Stockholm Convention.

POPs are substances that are persistent and toxic and can affect generations of humans. Exposure to POPs is known to effect health and can be the source of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and cancer. Some POPs are also considered to be endocrine disrupters and by altering the hormonal system, can also damage human reproductive and immune systems.

Currently, there are twenty-two chemicals listed in the Convention, including DDT, lindane, PCBs and dioxins and furans and some brominated flame retardants. The objective of the Convention is to restrict and eliminate these chemicals from production and use in order to protect human health and the environment. The Convention has 176 Parties as of 14 October 2011.

Since the beginning of its operations, the POPRC has recommended ten chemicals for listing and all ten were accepted by the Conference of the Parties of the Convention. Amendments incorporating the first nine of these chemicals into the annexes of the Convention entered into force on 26 August 2010. The tenth amendment, which will add endosulfan to Annex A, is pending entry into force in accordance with the procedure provided in Article 22 of the Convention.

The study, Climate Change and POPs: Predicting the Impacts, which was released at the 26th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, in Nairobi, in February 2011, highlighted the ways global warming increases the volubility and long-range mobility of some POPs, with potentially harmful impacts on vulnerable populations.

For More Information Please Contact:

Kei Ohno, Programme Officer, Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention, Geneva, +41 (22) 917 8201, e-mail: kohno@pops.int

Michael Stanley-Jones, Public Information Officer, Joint Services of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, UNEP Geneva, + 41 (22) 917 8668; (m) + 41 79 730 4495, e-mail: msjones@pic.int or SafePlanet@unep.org

Further information is available at http://www.pops.int or by emailing ssc@pops.int.

 
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