UN experts recommend listing hazardous industrial chemicals DecaBDE and PFOA

11 September 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic underlining the importance of sound management of chemicals and waste, UN experts recommend legally-binding control and information exchange on international trade of two industrial chemical groups.

The new recommendations were made today at the 16th meeting of the Rotterdam Convention’s Chemicals Review Committee (CRC), supported by the Convention Secretariat provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), bringing together over 100 specialists from more than 50 countries.

Decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE) is an additive flame retardant applied to plastics, textiles and coatings and can be found in computers, TVs, wires and cables, pipes, carpets, automotive parts and aircraft. It is known to be highly persistent, has high potential for bioaccumulation and long-range transport, and affects human and animal reproductive and nervous systems as an endocrine disruptor[1], and is listed under the Stockholm Convention as a persistent organic pollutant.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds belong to a group of chemicals known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which comprises more than 4,000 chemicals. PFOA is used in a wide variety of industrial and domestic applications including non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, as well as a surfactant in textiles, carpets, paper, paints and fire-fighting foams. PFOA is also a persistent organic pollutant, linked to major health issues such as kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and high cholestero[2].

The Rotterdam Convention’s Chemicals Review Committee (CRC) ensures rigorous scientific underpinning for decision-making on the international trade and management of hazardous chemicals. The online meeting included experts from government, civil society and industry.

The Committee’s recommendations to list these chemicals in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention are now forwarded to the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10), scheduled to be held in Geneva in July 2021. Should the COP10 decide to list, it will oblige Parties to the Rotterdam Convention to better communicate and share information regarding the import and export of these substances. This is achieved through a legally-binding, structured information exchange procedure based on prior informed consent to international trade (the PIC Procedure), enabling importing countries to take informed decisions, achieve sound management, and ultimately lower the risk of harmful impacts on health and the environment.

Welcoming the recommendations, the Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention (UNEP), Rolph Payet said that “this meeting shows that multilateralism in environmental governance is alive and well, and the Secretariat will continue working with Parties and stakeholders towards the sound management of hazardous chemicals and waste worldwide.”

Rémi Nono Womdim, Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention (FAO), commended the work of the international experts of the Committee and added “I hope we will soon be able to meet again in person to discuss the large number of notifications of final regulatory actions for pesticides received – a result of the great collective efforts of Parties, CRC Members, and the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat. Together we can protect the environment and food systems.”

Note for Editors:

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, is jointly administered by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The 163 Parties to this legally-binding Convention share responsibilities and cooperate to safely manage chemicals in international trade. To date 52 hazardous chemicals and pesticides are listed in its Annex III, making their international trade subject to a prior informed consent (PIC) procedure.

The Rotterdam Convention does not introduce bans but facilitates information exchange among Parties on hazardous chemicals and pesticides and about their characteristics, by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions to Parties. In addition, through its PIC Procedure, the Convention provides a legally binding mechanism to support national decisions on the import of certain chemicals and pesticides in order to minimize the risk they pose to human health and the environment.

For more information, please contact:

For industrial chemicals: Kei OHNO WOODALL, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), Geneva: +41-79-2333218, +41-22-9178201, kei.ohno-woodall@brsmeas.org

For pesticides: Christine FUELL, Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention (FAO), Rome: +39-06-57053765, christine.fuell@fao.org

For media enquiries: Charlie AVIS, Public Information Officer (BRS, UNEP), Geneva: +41-79-7304495, charles.avis@brsmeas.org

FAO media relations office, Rome: +39-06-57053625, FAO-Newsroom@fao.org.

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[1] For more information on DecaBDE see:
http://chm.pops.int/Implementation/Alternatives/AlternativestoPOPs/ChemicalslistedinAnnexA/cdecaBDE/tabid/5985/Default.aspx

[2] For more information on PFOA see:
http://chm.pops.int/Implementation/Alternatives/AlternativestoPOPs/ChemicalslistedinAnnexA/PFOA/tabid/8292/Default.aspx