POPs Committee Recommends Global Action On Two Chemicals; India Blocks Dicofol Ban

By Daniel Pruzin  

Oct. 18 --Scientists have agreed to recommend a global ban on the production and use of two toxic substances deemed to be persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and to advance reviews that could lead to restrictions on two others but failed to take action on one widely used pesticide due to resistance from India.

Wrapping up an Oct. 14-18 meeting in Rome, the Stockholm Convention's POPs Review Committee (POPRC) agreed to recommend the listing of hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) and chlorinated naphthalenes (CNs) under Annexes A and C of the convention.

Chemicals listed under Annex A are subject to a ban on their production or use, while those under Annex C are subject to measures aimed at reducing or eliminating releases from unintentional production.

In addition, the Review Committee agreed to advance to the next stage of review the possible listing of pentachlorophenol (PCP) and its salts and esters by authorizing the drafting of a risk management profile.

The decision was made despite a draft report by a POPRC working group in April advising against new global restrictions .

The draft conclusions were later changed by the working group at the Rome meeting, according to Joe DiGangi, senior science and technical adviser for the International POPs Elimination Network and an observer at the meeting.

The Review Committee also took the first step toward new restrictions on the flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) by agreeing that it met the screening criteria for consideration. The committee will now prepare a draft risk profile for decaBDE for consideration at its next annual meeting in 2014.

The committee expert from Japan had earlier objected to advancing the review of decaBDE on the grounds that it had not met the screening criteria for bioaccumulation but later lifted the reservation.

Dicofol Consensus Blocked

The Review Committee failed, however, to reach consensus on a European Union proposal for the listing of dicofol, an organochlorine pesticide that is chemically related to DDT. According to the EU, the substance is used in many countries around the world on a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, and ornamental and field crops.

DiGangi said the committee member from India blocked a decision to begin a draft risk profile on dicofol on the grounds that it didn't meet any of the screening criteria.

The Review Committee will take up the issue again at its next meeting in 2014.

“India promised to submit more data” but the “chairman and many of the committee members said that more data would really not fix the fundamental issue, which is India's misunderstanding of what the [screening] evaluation really is,” DiGangi said. “There was no scientific basis for their objection.”

DiGangi said that the committee member from India is a director at the country's Ministry of Environment and Forests and that a major producer of dicofol in India is Hindustan Insecticides Ltd., a government-owned company.

“The government produces the substance and a government representative blocks moving forward with the evaluation,” he said. POPRC members “are supposed to be scientific experts and not necessarily represent country positions, though in practice they do.”

Risk Profiles, DecaBDE

Under convention rules, when the POPRC is asked to examine chemicals nominated for listing, it prepares risk profiles to ascertain whether the chemicals in question present enough risk to merit global action. If the committee decides the chemicals are likely to lead to significant adverse human health or environmental effects warranting global action, it then prepares risk management evaluations that include an analysis of possible control measures.

Based on the approved risk profiles and the risk management evaluations, the committee then recommends whether the POPs in question should be subject to a global ban or restrictions on production or use.

The final decision on the listings is made by the convention's Conference of the Parties (COP), which will next meet in 2015.

The commercial version decaBDE is used for electrical and electronic equipment in housings of computers and television sets, in the transportation and aeronautic sectors and in construction and building, such as wires and cables, pipes and carpets. It is also used in contract textiles, mainly for public buildings and transport and in domestic furniture textiles.

DecaBDE was proposed for listing by Norway, which has banned the chemical. The EU and Switzerland ban its use in electrical and electronic equipment, while Canada bans its production. Restrictions on its use have also been adopted in China, India and South Korea.

In the U.S. the three largest producers of decaBDE agreed to end production, importation and sales for most uses by the end of 2012 and to end all uses by the end of 2013.

Concern About HCBD

The European Union first proposed the listing of hexachlorobutadiene in 2011, noting the chemical is persistent, bioaccumulative, very toxic to aquatic organisms and toxic to birds . The risk profile was approved at a POPRC meeting in October 2012, with the risk management evaluation approved at the Rome meeting.

HCBD has a variety of applications, ranging from a heat transfer liquid to a viticulture pesticide. A POPRC working group said that HCBD is not known to be currently produced or used, but it is unintentionally formed and released from industrial processes such as the production of chlorinated hydrocarbons, production of magnesium and incineration.

The POPRC agreed to recommend the listing of chlorinated naphthalenes after approving its risk management evaluation. Also proposed by the EU, chlorinated naphthalenes are a family of 75 substances that have been used in the past as wood preservatives, additives to paints and motor oils and for cable insulation and in capacitors.

A POPRC working group said that while intentional production of chlorinated naphthalenes is assumed to have ended, “there is uncertainty about this issue due to lack of information, and remaining use is still possible.” Unintentional releases of chlorinated naphthalenes continue, the working group added, primarily through waste incineration.

Other Actions Taken

In other actions, the POPRC approved a process for reviewing current allowed uses for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF).

Under Annex B of the convention, PFOS and PFOSF may be used for certain purposes, such as photo-imaging, in aviation hydraulic fluids, in certain medical devices and as fire-fighting foam.

Annex B also requires the COP to evaluate the continued need for the various acceptable purposes and specific exemptions on the basis of available scientific, technical, environmental and economic information, with the first evaluation taking place no later than 2015.

The POPRC also adopted new guidance on how to assess the possible impact of climate change on the committee's work and the approach to the consideration of climate change interactions with the chemicals proposed for listing.

In a joint report issued in February 2011, the secretariat of the Stockholm Convention and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) warned that rising temperatures will result in increased emissions from both primary and secondary sources of POPs, offsetting some of the efforts undertaken to reduce emissions under the convention .

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Pruzin in Geneva at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com