UN chemical experts recommend phase out of two industrial chemicals

Strengthening scientific synergies among global chemical agreements, Stockholm Convention’s POPs Review Committee held its ninth meeting at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters in Rome, 14–18 October 2013, and its first joint meeting with the Rotterdam Convention’s Chemical Review Committee on 20 October 2013

Geneva and Rome, 21 October 2013 -The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee, a subsidiary body of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), recommended the inclusion of two additional chemicals under the Convention, polychlorinated napththalenes (PCN) and hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD), thus lining them up for eventual phase-out. PCN and HCBD are both industrial chemicals used widely for many years in various applications including wood preservation, paint and insulation (PCN) and industrial processes (HCBD). HCBD was also used as a fumigant in pest control. Both chemicals have been recommended for listing in Annexes A and C to the Convention, thus targeting their intentional production, as well as unintentional releases of the chemicals.

The recommendations will be sent to the Parties to the Stockholm Convention for consideration at the seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties, scheduled to be held from 4 to 15 May 2015 in Geneva.

The Committee adopted a total of nine decisions, including on a chemical newly proposed for listing, decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE). The Committee decided that decaBDE fulfilled the screening criteria in Annex D and agreed to prepare a draft risk profile for decaBDE as a next step in the review process. On dicofol, the Committee could not reach agreement and thus agreed to consider the proposal to list the chemical in Annexes A, B and/or C of the Convention further at its next meeting.

On pentachlorophenol and its salts and esters, the Committee adopted a risk profile and decided to move the chemical to the next review stage, the development of a risk management evaluation.

“Drawing upon its wealth of experience in tackling complex safety issues, the POPs Review Committee has recommended actions that will protect human lives and the environment against some of the world’s most dangerous toxic chemicals,” said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions.

The meeting of the POPs Review Committee was followed by a joint meeting between the Committee and the Rotterdam Convention’s Chemical Review Committee on Sunday, 20 October 2013. The Committee exchanged information on their respective review processes, and discussed ways to strengthen scientific synergies and enhance collaboration and cooperation among the committees. The Committee agreed upon a number of steps to make use of experiences gained through the work of the committees and established an intersessional working group to develop further guidance to assist parties to the Rotterdam Convention and the Chemical Review Committee in their work when a chemical under consideration is a POP listed under the Stockholm Convention.

The ninth meeting of the Chemical Review Committee will be held from 22 to 25 October 2013, at the same venue.

Note for Editors:

The Stockholm Convention on POPs regulates chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic, and evaporate and travel long distances through the air and through water, to protect human health and the environment globally. Article 8 of the Convention entails the reviewing process of new chemicals and Annex D, Annex E and Annex F specify the information and criteria required for the review.

The POPs Review Committee consists of thirty-one scientific experts appointed by the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention charged with undertaking scientific review of chemicals proposed for listing.

Polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCN) were used for decades for wood preservation, as an additive to paints and engine oils, and for cable insulation and in capacitors. Until the 1970s, PCNs 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.

Decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE) is widely used as an additive flame retardant in textiles and plastics. It is a synthetic mixture of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, with the main component being the decaBDE congener.

Dicofol is pesticide and acaricide used in many countries around the world on a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, ornamental and field crops. It is chemically related to DDT, a substance listed in Annex B of the Convention.

Pentachlorophenol (PCP) is an organochlorine compound used as a pesticide and a disinfectant. A wealth of data on the adverse effects of pentachlorophenol in mammals show developmental, immunotoxic and neurotoxic effects. Human survivors of toxic exposures may suffer permanent visual and central nervous system damage.

The tenth meeting of the POPs Review Committee will be held in Rome, Italy, from 27 to 31 October 2014 back-to-back with the Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, tentatively scheduled for 20 to 24 October 2014.

The following twelve persistent organic pollutants had been recommended previously to the Conference of the Parties by the POPs Review Committee and have now been added to the Convention:

  • Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Beta hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Chlordecone
  • Hexabromobiphenyl
  • Hexabromocyclododecane
  • Hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether (commercial octabromodiphenyl ether)
  • Endosulfan
  • Lindane
  • Pentachlorobenzene
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride
  • Technical endosulfan and its related isomers
  • Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether (commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether)

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade contributes to the environmentally sound use of chemicals by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics. It provides for a national decision-making process on their import and export and disseminates these decisions to Parties through the Convention’s Prior Informed Consent, or PIC, procedure.


Kei OHNO WOODALL, Programme Officer, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), Geneva, +41-79-233-3218, kei.ohno-woodall@brsmeas.org

Michael S. JONES, Public Information Officer, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), mobile/text message: +41-79-730-4495, michael.jones@brsmeas.org

For more information, see www.pops.int and wwww.pic.int.