Environmental Protection

POP Committee Reviews More Substances

A new range of everyday and industrial chemicals used in carpets and textiles up to aviation devices and medical equipment may soon be controlled or eliminated under an international hazardous substances treaty.

Scientists on Oct. 13 began reviewing four to add to a list of five substances already short-listed last year for consideration under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

The four additional substances are:

•Commercial uses of octabromodiphenyl ether, a brominated flame retardant used in textiles and carpets;

•Pentachlorobenzene, found in electrical transformer fluids and as an impurity in herbicides, fungicides and wood treatments;

•Alpha and beta hexachlorocyclohexane¬†which are by-products of the production of the pesticide Lindane.

Their possible listing was reviewed in Geneva by the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Review Committee in advance of the Convention's Conference of the Parties meeting in May 2009.

Achim Steiner, U.N. under-secretary general and executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "As science gains greater insight into their effects, we are fast understanding that some substances now pose real risks to humans and the wider environment often in vulnerable communities such as can be found in parts of the Arctic. Eliminating, restricting, and accelerating a switch to better alternatives must be our goal," he added.

"The Stockholm Convention is already dealing with 12 Persistent Organic Pollutants, the so-called Dirty Dozen. It is continuing to fulfill it mandate and meet its responsibilities by reviewing others for potential listing. I look forward to the review committee's decisions," said Steiner.

Many of these nine chemicals are used in everyday consumer products. Some are present in coatings for photolithography processes; photo imaging; hydraulic fluids in aviation, and in certain medical devices. They are also found in fire-fighting foam, as well as electric and electronic components. If listed, the Convention will implement measures to control these dangerous chemicals. New products will be proposed and alternative procedures established to minimize the levels and uses of these substances.

The proposed listing means that the scope of the Stockholm Convention's work will double. It also reaffirms the Review Committee's mandate regarding the identification of POPs in current use.

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