At its fourth and fifth meetings in 2009 and 2011, the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention adopted amendments to list 10 additional persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in its Annexes. These new POPs, which include the infamous pesticides lindane and endosulfan, are among many commonly used chemicals around the world.
Lindane and endosulfan were introduced in the 1950s as insecticides. Due to the persistence of these chemicals in the environment, they can bioaccumulate in the food chain, causing toxic effects to both terrestrial and aquatic species. The health effects of both to humans are also of concern. Lindane is commonly used as a topical treatment for scabies and lice, but due to evidence of deleterious effects in laboratory studies, it has only been given a specific exemption as a secondary treatment option. Endosulfan was found to pose unacceptable risks to workers after many years of use in agriculture. Its potential to cause congenital physical disorders, mental retardation and death warranted its prohibition in many countries before its listing on the Stockholm Convention.
As scientific research continues to evolve and the health effects of POPs are more thoroughly understood, new chemicals will be added to the Stockholm Convention. At its 2013 meeting in Rome, the Convention’s POPs Review Committee recommended the inclusion of two additional chemicals under the Convention, polychlorinated napththalenes and hexachlorobutadiene. Both of these are industrial chemicals used in various applications, such as wood preservation, paint and insulation, and industrial processes.
The recommendation for these chemicals includes listings in Annexes A and C of the Convention. Countries will not only have to target the intentional production of these chemicals, but also any unintentional releases of them. As with previous banned or restricted POPs, Parties will need to perform national assessments of the uses of these chemicals before making appropriate management and policy decisions to control and eventually eliminate their use. The POPs Review Committee will evaluate these proposed listings, and a decision on the inclusion of these chemicals in the Convention will be made at the 2015 meeting.
Full details on the Stockholm Convention and POPs can be found at http://www.pops.int.