Record number of chemicals reviewed by UN chemical expert committees

FAO and UNEP experts pursue sound chemicals management to promote human and environmental health

Rome: 30 October 2017 In keeping with recent calls for commitments from all to contribute towards a pollution-free planet, experts and observers joined members of the Rotterdam (RC) and Stockholm (SC) Conventions’ chemical review committees for back-to-back meetings in Rome in recent days and reviewed a record number of chemicals for inclusion in annexes of the two Conventions, both of which aim to protect human health and the environment. Discussions concluded on 26th October and three more chemicals are recommended for inclusion in the Rotterdam Convention, whilst two more are recommended for inclusion in the Stockholm Convention.

More than 250 experts and observers in total, from all regions of the world, gathered at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome to conduct back-to-back meetings focussed on the review of scientific information on toxic chemicals, with a view to recommending inclusion in the annexes of the two conventions, thus becoming regulated by international law.

According to the latest FAO data, international pesticide sales are valued at up to USD 480 billion a year. UNEP estimates that as many as three percent of those working in agriculture worldwide suffer from acute pesticide poisoning, with adolescents facing a higher risk.

The Rotterdam Convention - which currently has 159 Parties - provides an early warning on the trade of certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides, through the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure, a mechanism that requires Parties to take informed decisions on the future import of these chemicals.

The 13th meeting of the Chemical Review Committee (CRC) of the Rotterdam Convention, which was held back-to-back with POPRC and which concluded on 26 October, successfully recommended to the COP the listing of phorate, acetochlor and hexabromocyclododecane in Annex III of the Convention. 

Acetochlor, a selective herbicide, has been used on maize in Sahelian west African countries. It poses a high risk to aquatic organisms as well as long-term risks to herbivorous birds and to humans.

Phorate, a pesticide, has been used for example in Brazil as an insecticide in cotton, potato, coffee, beans and corn and is considered one of the most toxic organophosphate AChE inhibitors.

Hexabromocyclododecane - is a brominated flame retardant already listed in the Stockholm Convention in Annex A and used as a flame retardant additive to provide fire protection during the service life of vehicles, buildings or articles, as well as protection while stored and in selected electronic products. 

In reflecting on keys to the successful meetings, William Murray, Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention (RC) for FAO, concluded that “National capacity-building has contributed substantially to sound chemicals management, which is essential to sustainable agriculture and, ultimately, food security”.

“Notwithstanding the scientific and technical aspects of the work of the CRC, the outcomes are felt at a much wider spectrum of the global chemicals and wastes management agenda, including implications for human and environmental health, sustainable development, food security and socio-economic considerations” said Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions for UNEP. “These decisions will further protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and will guide the international community towards not just a pollution-free planet, but also towards implementing the SDGs through the sound management of chemicals and waste” he added.

The Stockholm Convention - which currently has 181 Parties - aims to eliminate or restrict the use of chemicals referred to as “Persistent Organic Pollutants” (POPs), which are among the most toxic substances found on earth and thus posing serious threats to human health and the environment. The next step will be for the respective Conferences of the Parties to decide whether to formally list these chemicals at their next meetings in Geneva in April 2019.

The 13th meeting of the Stockholm Convention’s Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) met from 17 to 20 October, and recommended listing by the next COP of two highly toxic chemicals, namely dicofol, and PFOA, its salts & PFOA-related compounds, in respectively, Annex A and Annex A or B to the Convention. On PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related compounds, further work is expected by the Committee at its next meeting to define the need for possible specific exemptions for certain applications in the view of strengthening its recommendation to the COP. 

Dicofol is an organochlorine pesticide structurally similar to DDT. Often used as a foliar spray on agricultural crops and ornamentals, and in or around agricultural and domestic buildings for mite control.

PFOA - or pentadecafluorooctanoic acid -, its salts and PFOA-related compounds are used in a wide variety of applications and consumer products across many sectors, e.g. semiconductor industry, imaging and printing industry, textiles, fire-fighting foam, medical devices.

The Committee was also satisfied that the proposal submitted for listing PFHxS, its salts and PFHxS-related compounds to the annexes of the Convention met the required criteria, moving this group of substances to the next stage of the listing process, which requires the development of a risk profile. PFHxS are used as a surfactant to make fluoropolymers and as water- and stain protective coatings for carpets, paper and textiles.

Stressing that the listing of chemicals into the Conventions’ annexes contributes to the broader international push for a pollution-free planet, BRS Deputy Executive Secretary Carlos Martin-Novella noted that such scientific processes  “inform the global high-level political commitment on pollution, which will be negotiated at the forthcoming UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, 4-6 December. This meeting, UNEA-3, has as its overarching vision a “world without pollution” and the sound management of chemicals and wastes feature as one of 6 sub-themes. Work from Committees such as this provides the foundation, the building blocks, for such grand and noble statements.”

The next meetings of the Conferences of Parties (COPs) for both conventions, together with that of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, will be held in Geneva in April 2019.



Note for editors:

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade creates legally binding obligations for its currently 155 parties. It currently covers 50 chemicals, pesticides and pesticide formulations.

The Chemical Review Committee consists of thirty-one scientific experts appointed by the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention charged with undertaking scientific review of chemicals proposed for listing. 

More information on all the chemicals currently listed, or proposed and/or under review for listing, can be found on the Rotterdam Convention homepages  or by contacting:

  • Christine FUELL, Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention (FAO), Rome: + 39-06-5705-3765,

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs, creates legally binding obligations for its 181 Parties and currently includes 26 chemicals listed within its annexes.

The POPs Review Committee consists of thirty-one scientific experts appointed by the Conference of the Parties charged with undertaking scientific review of chemicals proposed for listing. 

More information on all the chemicals currently listed, or proposed and/or under review for listing, can be found on the Stockholm Convention homepages at or by contacting:

  • Kei OHNO WOODALL, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), Geneva: +41-79-2333218, +41-22-917-78201, 
  • Charlie AVIS, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), Geneva: +41-79-730-4495,