Stricter trade measures recommended for hazardous industrial chemical PFOA

Rome, Italy, and Geneva, Switzerland: 10 October 2019 - UN experts have recommended stricter, legally-binding measures for information exchange concerning trade in the industrial chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds, widely used in domestic non-stick cooking ware and food-processing appliances, textiles, paper and paints, and firefighting foams. PFOA 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.[1]

With a goal of protecting human health and environment by assisting governments to make informed decisions concerning trade in pesticides and industrial chemicals, the UN Rotterdam Convention’s Chemicals Review Committee (CRC) held its 15th meeting at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters in Rome, from 8 to 10 October 2019. Chemicals experts from all the UN regions attended the meeting together with representatives from government, civil society and industry.

PFOA was included earlier this year for elimination in Annex A to the UN Stockholm Convention, and should there be a complimentary listing in Annex III by the Rotterdam Convention when its governing body meets in 2021 this would imply more information would be available for countries wishing to still use PFOA. It would also put in place a legally-binding, structured information exchange procedure based on prior informed consent to trade. This would enable importing countries to be more informed, to soundly manage the chemical and to lower the risk of harmful impacts on health and the environment.

The experts at the CRC meeting also reviewed three additional chemicals, namely: the pesticide amitrole; the industrial chemical decabromodiphenyl ether; and nonylphenols and nonylphenol ethoxylates (pesticide and industrial chemical). Of these, the Committee decided to recommend that the governing body of the Convention (the Conference of the Parties or ‘COP’) list decabromodiphenyl ether in Annex III. The CRC will now prepare a detailed decision guidance document to accompany its recommendation to the COP.

The work of the Chemicals Review Committee provides an important contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG12, which refers in its targets to the sound management of chemicals and waste” said Mr. Hans Dreyer, Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention (FAO), who also commended the work of the 31 international experts of the Committee.

Mr. Carlos Martin-Novella, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention (UNEP), added that “This Convention exists to ensure information exchange takes place so that governments may take informed decisions and share responsibility concerning the trade in hazardous chemicals, thus protecting human health and the environment. The experts’ recommendation to list PFOA, and also move ahead with one additional chemical, is therefore a positive step towards the sound management of chemicals across the world.”

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 161 Parties to this legally-binding Convention share responsibility and cooperate to safely manage chemicals in international trade. To date 52 hazardous chemicals and pesticides are listed in its Annex III, making trade of these subject to a prior informed consent (PIC) procedure.

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 decision making. 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.

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For CRC/Rotterdam Convention:

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