Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Little Pro on 2016-01-07

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) is an international treaty to protect human health and the environment from the harmful effects of POPs. The Convention was adopted on 22 May 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden and entered into force on 17 May 2004.

More than 170 countries have ratified the Convention up to date. The Convention requires that Parties to the convention take measures to eliminate or restrict the production and use of certain hazardous chemicals on the List of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Convention. The table below gives you an overview of the Convention.

Stockholm Convention

What Are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)?

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are organic chemical substances that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food chain, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment.

POPs concentrate in living organisms through a process called bioaccumulation. Fish, predatory birds, mammals, and humans are high up the food chain and so absorb the greatest concentrations.

Specific effects of POPs can include cancer, allergies and hypersensitivity, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders, and disruption of the immune system. Some POPs are also considered to be endocrine disrupters, which, by altering the hormonal system, can damage the reproductive and immune systems of exposed individuals as well as their offspring.

List of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Convention

Currently there are over 30 chemicals on the List of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Convention (up to Jul 2019). The List consists of three annexes:

  • Annex A (Elimination): The production and use of chemicals on annex A must be eliminated unless there are specific exemptions;
  • Annex B (Restriction): The production and use of chemicals on annex B must be restricted;
  • Annex C (Unintentional Production): Measures must be taken to reduce the unintentional releases of chemicals on Annex C.
Annex A
  • Aldrin
  • Chlordane
  • Chlordecone
  • Dieldrin
  • Endrin
  • Mirex
  • Heptachlor
  • Hexabromobiphenyl
  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)
  • Hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether
  • Hexachlorobenzene (HCB)
  • Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Beta hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Lindane
  • Pentachlorobenzene
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
  • Technical endosulfan and its related isomers
  • Tetra bromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether
  • Toxaphene
  • Chlorinated naphthalenes (added in May 2015);
  • Hexachlorobutadiene;(added in May 2015)
  • Pentachlorophenol;(added in May 2015)
  • ecabromodiphenyl ether (commercial mixture, c-decaBDE) (added in May 2017);
  • Short-chained chlorinated paraffins (added in May 2017);
  • Dicofol (added in May 2019); 
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) its salts and PFOA-related compounds (added in May 2019)
Annex B
  • DDT: can be used for disease vector control only;
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride: can be used for certain accepted purposes;
Annex C
  • Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (“dioxins”) ;
  • Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDF) (“furans”);
  • Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) ;
  • Pentachlorobenzene ;
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB);
  • Hexabromocyclododecane(HBCD);

It shall be noted that:

  • 3 chemicals are listed in both Annex A and Annex C: Hexachlorobenzene (HCB), Pentachlorobenzene and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB);
  • Even for chemicals listed on Annex A, there may be some specific exemptions. For example, Hexabromocyclododecane(HBCD) can be used in expanded polystyrene and extruded polystyrene in buildings;
  • Many chemicals have multiple CAS numbers. For example, there are 2 CAS numbers for Hexabromocyclododecane(HBCD): CAS25637-99-4 and CAS3194-55-6.

Impacts of the Stockholm Convention

The Stockholm Convention has a big impact on both chemical industry and other sectors which use certain hazardous substances (for example, flame retardants) in their articles and parts. Once a hazardous substance is added to Annex A, it will face a global ban. Companies must take measures to eliminate or substitute the hazardous substance in their products.

Countries that have ratified the Convention usually have their own environmental regulations to eliminate or restrict the production and use of listed Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in their own jurisdictions. Companies must refer to those regulations for more detailed requirements.

Reference & Resource

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