UN scientific committee recommends international trade measures for an additional 4 chemicals known to be harmful to human health and the environment

Date: 13 September 2018

With the goal to protect human health and environment by assisting governments to make informed decisions concerning trade in pesticide and industrial chemicals, the UN Rotterdam Convention’s Chemicals Review Committee held its 14th meeting at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters in Rome, from 11 - 13 September 2018 with chemicals experts from all the UN regions attending the meeting.

The four hazardous chemicals recommended to be listed are:

  • The pesticide acetochlor, used for example as a herbicide on maize, known to be highly toxic to aquatic organisms and posing a high risk to birds and non-targeted plants[1];
  • The industrial chemical hexabromocyclododecane, used for example in flame retardants and polystyrene foam insulation, known to be carcinogenic, neurotoxic and harmful for human development as well as toxic to both aquatic and terrestrial species[2];
  • The pesticide phorate, widely used to control insects on cotton, potatoes, coffee, beans and corn; and which is extremely toxic, causing lethality at low doses, and with studies showing poisonings and deaths amongst agricultural workers exposed to this active ingredient[3];
  • The industrial chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds, widely used in domestic non-stick cooking ware and food-processing appliances, surface treatment agents in textiles, paper and paints, firefighting foams and is known to be toxic to humans and the environment with links to major health issues such as kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and pregnancy-induced hypertension[4].

The decision to list these chemicals will be taken at subsequent Meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COPs), the next of which will be held in Geneva from 29 April to 10 May 2019. The meeting coincided with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Rotterdam Convention, during which time 50 chemicals and pesticides have been listed and become subject to trade control measures.

Carlos Martin Novella, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, stressed that “these recommendations will further the conventions’ joint aims of protecting human health and the environment” and that “over the course of its twenty years since adoption, the Rotterdam Convention has undoubtedly improved global governance on the trade in pesticides and industrial chemicals, offering as a framework not only for information exchange but also for capacity building, technical assistance, and a supportive climate for informed decision-making on the import and export of chemicals worldwide.”

Christine Fuell, Coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention at FAO emphasized that “the Chemical Review Committee works in a very transparent and inclusive manner, conducting its reviews independently and on science-based information only. The Committee’s work is facilitated by a Handbook of Working Procedures and Policy Guidance, which has been also updated during this meeting to account for the new experiences of its work.”

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 UN Environment (UNEP). The 160 Parties to this legally-binding Convention share responsibility and cooperate to safely manage chemicals in international trade. To date 50 chemicals and pesticides are listed in its Annex III.

The Rotterdam Convention does not introduce bans but facilitates the exchange of information among Parties on hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and their potential risks. The information can be used to inform and improve national decision making. In addition, through the PIC Procedure, it provides a legally binding mechanism to support national decisions on the import of selected chemicals and pesticides in order to minimize the risk they pose to human health and the environment. 

For more information, please contact:

For CRC/Rotterdam Convention: www.pic.int

  • Christine FUELL, Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention (FAO), Rome: +39-06-5705-3765, christine.fuell@fao.org
  • FAO media relations office (For journalists) Rome: (+39) 06 570 53625. E-mail: FAO-Newsroom@fao.org
  •  Kei OHNO WOODALL, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), Geneva: +41-79-2333218, +41-22-917-78201, kei.ohno-woodall@brsmeas.org
  •  For BRS conventions general media enquiries: www.brsmeas.org or contact: Charlie AVIS, Public Information Officer (UN Environment), Geneva +41-79-7304495