Press Releases

 

Read the Basel Convention press release on the entry into force of the Ban Amendment

Entry into force of amendment to UN treaty boosts efforts to prevent waste dumping.

Read the Basel Convention press release on the entry into force of the Ban Amendment

Read the Basel Convention press release on the entry into force of the Ban Amendment

Momentum and political will continues to grow for tackling the world’s ever-intensifying waste problem, with this week celebrating the threshold for the Basel Convention1’s Ban Amendment to enter into force being reached. The Ban Amendment prohibits the export of hazardous waste from developed countries (OECD, EU member states, Liechtenstein) to developing countries.

The Ban Amendment will enter into force on 5 December 2019 following the recent ratification by Croatia. At the time of its adoption in 1995, some felt the amendment was a way to address challenges faced by developing countries and countries with economies in transition to control imports of hazardous and other wastes that they were unable to manage in an environmentally sound manner.

The spirit of the Ban Amendment has been very much alive for many years, in spite of the time elapsed between its adoption and entry into force. Many developed country Parties to the Convention have already made use of their prerogative to ban the export of hazardous wastes, while many developing countries also made use of their prerogative to ban the import of hazardous wastes.

The entry into force of the Ban Amendment has significant political weight, acting as a flagship of international efforts to ensure that those countries with the capacity to manage their hazardous wastes in an environmentally sound manner take responsibility for them, while still allowing Parties wishing to receive wastes required as raw materials for recycling or recovery industries.

International efforts to reach the threshold for entry into force – 66 of the 87 Parties as at 22 September 1995 – included a multi-year country-led initiative by Indonesia and Switzerland launched in 2011, assistance by the Basel Convention Secretariat to individual Parties facing difficulties in ratifying the Ban Amendment, as well as awareness-raising activities by many other stakeholders.

Reflecting on these latest developments, the Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention, Rolph Payet, said today that “public awareness of the scale and impact of our waste problem has risen enormously in recent years and Parties are stepping up their efforts to collectively tackle this, both at home through innovative measures and also globally through international, multilateral action. The Basel Convention has continually evolved to reflect these new challenges and the entry into force of the Ban Amendment is another milestone towards minimising risks from the adverse effects of transboundary movements of hazardous waste. Quite simply, the world will be a safer, healthier place from now on.”

NOTES for EDITORS:

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environment on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 Parties. With an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, its scope covers a wide range of wastes defined as hazardous based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics, as well as two types of waste defined as “other wastes”, namely household waste and incinerator ash. For more info see www.basel.int

The Ban Amendment was adopted by decision III/1 at the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 1995. It added a new preambular paragraph, an additional paragraph to Article 4 and a new Annex VII to the Convention. The Ban Amendment provides for the prohibition by Parties listed in Annex VII (members of the EU, OECD and Liechtenstein) of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes to States not in Annex VII. For more information: http://www.basel.int/Implementation/LegalMatters/BanAmendment/Overview/tabid/1484/Default.aspx

The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, or BRS Secretariat, supports Parties implement the three leading multilateral environment agreements governing chemicals and waste, in order to protect human health and the environment. See www.brsmeas.org for more info and follow the @brsmeas twitter feed for daily news.

Media enquiries, interviews, more information, contact:

Charlie Avis
Public Information Officer, BRS Secretariat
Charles.avis@brsmeas.org
Tel: +41-79-7304495

Substantive questions related to the Ban Amendment, contact:

Yvonne Ewang-Sanvincenti
Legal Officer, BRS Secretariat
yvonne.ewang@brsmeas.org
Tel.: +41-22-9178112




1 The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted in 1989, entered into force in 1992, and as of today has 187 Parties. Its overarching goal is the protection of human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes.

7 million premature deaths per year from visible and invisible air pollution

On the occasion of World Environment Day, read the BRS Press Release highlighting the need to make the invisible, visible to beat air pollution.

7 million premature deaths per year from visible and invisible air pollution

7 million premature deaths per year from visible and invisible air pollution

As public attention today focusses on air pollution through the marking of the UN World Environment Day, it is more important than ever to realise that not all air pollution - such as smog - is visible and that there are many invisible pollutants in our air, including highly toxic Persistent Organic Pollutants (or POPs).

Known to be long-lasting, highly transportable through air and water, and bio-accumulative – meaning that they become concentrated in fatty tissue ever-higher up the food chain - POPs are linked to many negative impacts upon human health and the environment including certain types of cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damages to the central and peripheral nervous systems.[i]

Since POPs are transported through water and through air, neither of which respect national boundaries, global actions are required to combat this form of pollution. To that end, countries came together to define and implement the Stockholm Convention (adopted in 2001, entered into force in 2004), which by now has 182 Parties who are required to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

Last month, at the latest meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention, Parties agreed to add two more toxic chemical groups to the list of POPs to be eliminated: namely Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and its salts and PFOA-related compounds. The latter has till now been 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.

The Stockholm Convention does not only deal with the reduction and elimination of these very toxic pollutants. It also makes provisions for monitoring the success of pollution reduction efforts, through its Global Monitoring Plan, which measures POPs concentrations around the world in the media of air, water, blood and breast milk, as well as working on the identification and development of alternatives to these chemicals.

Speaking on World Environment Day, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Stockholm Convention, Carlos Martin-Novella, remarked that “Activities around the world today rightly remind us that air pollution is an enormous health problem, and silent killer, worldwide. But not all air pollution is as visible as the clouds of smog which sit over some of our cities. POPs are largely invisible to the eye and yet are amongst the most toxic substances known to humankind, travelling through air and water and ending up in the most remote environments, and in our bodies through the food-chain and through environmental exposure. We need to make the invisible, visible, and to that end the Stockholm Convention brings together countries who strive for a POPs-free future.”

Notes for Editors:

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Convention requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 182 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. As of the end of this COP, 30 chemicals of global concern are listed under the Stockholm Convention. See www.pops.int

Listing of Chemicals: Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention

The two new chemicals listed in Annex A to the Stockholm Convention are the pesticide Dicofol, and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) its salts and PFOA-related compounds (some applications with time-limited exemptions). Listing in Annex A to the Convention obliges Parties to eliminate these chemicals from production and use. The two chemicals are listed on the basis of a robust review process addressing risks, management options and alternatives by the UN’s POPs Review Committee. Dicofol is used as a miticide on a variety of field crops, fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and tea and coffee and is known to cause skin irritation and hyperstimulation of nerve transmissions in humans as well as being highly toxic to fish, aquatic invertebrates, algae and birds. PFOA is a widely-used industrial chemical used in the production of non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, as well as a surfactant in textiles, carpets, paper, paints and fire-fighting foams. As a substance of very high concern, it is known to be linked to major health problems including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease and hypertension in pregnancy. More information on these chemicals is available in factsheets.

  • For BRS conventions general media enquiries see: www.brsmeas.org or contact:
    Charlie AVIS, Public Information Officer (UN Environment), Geneva +41-79-730-4495
New era for plastic waste management as governments agree landmark actions on chemicals and waste

The 2019 Triple COPs concluded successfully with a raft of decisions to protect human health and the environment from the harmful effects of chemicals and wastes, including plastic waste.

New era for plastic waste management as governments agree landmark actions on chemicals and waste

New era for plastic waste management as governments agree landmark actions on chemicals and waste

Geneva, 10 May 2019 - Decisions on plastic waste have been reached today in Geneva, as approximately 180 governments adopted a raft of decisions aimed at protecting human health and the environment from the harmful effects of hazardous chemicals and waste.

Pollution from plastic waste, acknowledged as a major environmental problem of global concern, has reached epidemic proportions with an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic now found in the oceans, 80-90% of which comes from land-based sources1. Governments this week amended the Basel Convention to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework which will make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, whilst also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment. At the same time, a new Partnership on Plastic Waste was established to mobilise business, government, academic and civil society resources, interests and expertise to assist in implementing the new measures, to provide a set of practical supports – including tools, best practices, technical and financial assistance - for this ground-breaking agreement.

Other far-reaching decisions from the two weeks included the elimination of two toxic chemical groups, which together total about 4,000 chemicals, listed into Annex A of the Stockholm Convention, namely Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and its salts and PFOA-related compounds. The latter has till now been 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.

Important progress was also made under the Rotterdam Convention, which provides a legally-binding framework for information exchange and informed decision-making in the trade of certain hazardous pesticides and industrial chemicals. Two chemicals, the pesticide phorate and the industrial chemical hexabromocyclododecane were added to Annex III of the convention, making them subject to the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure, through which countries can decide on future imports of these chemicals. A further decision, to approve procedures and mechanisms on compliance with the Rotterdam Convention – seen as a crucial step for further improving implementation of this key convention - was adopted with great appreciation by Parties.

Working for two weeks in Geneva under the theme of “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”, approximately 1,400 delegates from around 180 countries converged for the meetings of the Conferences of Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions (Triple COPs). Participants benefited from the numerous opportunities and events to exchange information on alternatives to these chemicals, as well as best practices.

Speaking at the closing session of the Triple COPs, Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary (UNEP) of the three conventions, said that “I’m proud that this week in Geneva, Parties to the Basel Convention have reached agreement on a legally-binding, globally-reaching mechanism for managing plastic waste. Plastic waste is acknowledged as one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, and the fact that this week close to 1 million people around the world signed a petition urging Basel Convention Parties to take action here in Geneva at the COPs is a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high.

We were able to list two out of 7 candidate chemicals and will continue working closely with parties to identify feasible alternative solutions to hazardous pesticides, taking due account of food security and market access aspects” added Hans Dreyer, Executive Secretary (FAO) of the Rotterdam Convention.

Notes for Editors:

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 Parties. With an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes and other wastes, its scope covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous” based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash. See www.basel.int

Plastic Waste

With an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic in our seas, 80-90% of which has come from land-based sources, the high public profile of this issue is understandable. Reducing waste generation at source, and improving waste management thereafter, would go a long way towards solving this problem. For more on this see:  http://www.brsmeas.org/?tabid=4332&blogId=5169 and http://www.brsmeas.org/tabid/7656/Default.aspx

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 161 Parties to this legally-binding Convention share responsibility and cooperate to safely manage chemicals in international trade. As of the end of this COP, 52 chemicals and pesticides are listed in its Annex III. The Convention does not introduce bans but facilitates the exchange of information among Parties on hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and their potential risks, 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. See www.pic.int

Listing of Chemicals: Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals under the Rotterdam Convention

The newly-listed chemicals are phorate (a pesticide) and hexabromocyclododecane (an industrial chemical) these chemicals would be included in the prior informed consent (PIC) procedure enabling better-informed decision-making on the trade in chemicals, thereby protecting human health and the environment. More information on these chemicals is available at: http://www.pic.int/tabid/1185/Default.aspx

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Convention requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 182 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. As of the end of this COP, 30 chemicals of global concern are listed under the Stockholm Convention. See www.pops.int

Listing of Chemicals: Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention

The two new chemicals listed in Annex A to the Stockholm Convention are the pesticide Dicofol, and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) its salts and PFOA-related compounds (some applications with time-limited exemptions). Listing in Annex A to the Convention obliges Parties to eliminate these chemicals from use. The two chemicals are listed on the basis of a robust review process addressing risks, management options and alternatives by the UN’s POPs Review Committee. Dicofol is used as a miticide on a variety of field crops, fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and tea and coffee and is known to cause skin irritation and hyperstimulation of nerve transmissions in humans as well as being highly toxic to fish, aquatic invertebrates, algae and birds. PFOA is a widely-used industrial chemical used in the production of non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, as well as a surfactant in textiles, carpets, paper, paints and fire-fighting foams. As a substance of very high concern, it is known to be linked to major health problems including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease and hypertension in pregnancy. More information on these chemicals is available in factsheets at: http://chm.pops.int/tabid/243/Default.aspx

For BRS conventions general media enquiries see: www.brsmeas.org or contact:
Charlie AVIS, Public Information Officer (UN Environment), Geneva
+41-79-730-4495

 

 

 


1 Data from “Marine litter plastics and microplastics and their toxic chemicals components: the need for urgent preventive measures” by Frederic Gallo et. al. in Environmental Sciences Europe 2018; 30(1): 13, at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5918521/

2019 Triple COPs open in Geneva: for a Clean Planet & Healthy People

Read the opening day BRS press release, outlining what to expect from the 2019 meetings of the conferences of parties to the Basel, Rotterdam & Stockholm conventions.

2019 Triple COPs open in Geneva: for a Clean Planet & Healthy People

2019 Triple COPs open in Geneva: for a Clean Planet & Healthy People

The threats to human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and waste are omnipresent, well understood, and impossible to ignore. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently estimated that 1.6 million preventable deaths per year[1] are due to unsound management of chemicals and waste. Governments from across the world have converged on Geneva this week for discussions and decisions aimed at protecting human health and the environment from chemicals and waste.

With an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic in our seas[2]; an estimated 50 million tonnes of electronic waste generated every year[3]; and with scientists predicting the collapse of wildlife populations as a result of pollution from chemicals[4], there is an urgent need to take action for a Clean Planet, Healthy People.

Speaking at the opening session of the Triple COPs, Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary (UNEP) of the three conventions, said that “governments have the opportunity to take historic and legally-binding decisions in these next two weeks, decisions which will result in practical steps to rid the world of marine plastic litter, which will help stem the tide of electronic waste, to further protect our health and environment from some of the most toxic and hazardous chemicals in the world”.

“The global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. The challenge will be to produce enough nutritious and healthy food without harming human health and the environment by hazardous pesticides. Increased knowledge sharing between Parties is an important element in reducing pesticide risks and shifting towards a sustainable agriculture” added Hans Dreyer, Executive Secretary (FAO) of the Rotterdam Convention.

Key decisions are expected concerning plastic waste, electronic waste, and hazardous chemicals.

Plastic Waste

With an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic in our seas, 80-90% of which has come from land-based sources, the high public profile of this issue is understandable. Reducing waste generation at source, and improving waste management thereafter, would go a long way towards solving this problem. To that end, the Basel Convention COP will consider proposed legally-binding amendments to the convention which will enable the 187 Parties to better regulate movements of plastic waste, add transparency, bring exports of plastic waste under the rule of law, oblige governments to minimise waste generation, and oblige them to manage plastic waste in an environmentally sound manner. A new private-public partnership is also proposed, which would share best practices, raise public awareness, and build capacities in developing countries to deal with this most pressing issue. For more on this see:

http://www.brsmeas.org/?tabid=4332&blogId=5169 and

http://www.brsmeas.org/tabid/7656/Default.aspx

Electronic Waste

Electronic waste – or e-waste – is thought to be the fastest growing hazardous waste stream in the world and is regulated by the Basel Convention. Considered hazardous due to the presence of toxic materials such as mercury, lead, and brominated flame retardants in electrical appliances, e-waste may also contain economically valuable metals such as gold, copper and nickel. Together, computers, printers, televisions, refrigerators, air-conditioning units, mobile phones and other e-waste make up an estimated 50 million tonnes being generated per year a figure which might more than double to 120 million tonnes per year by 2050. The 2019 Basel COP will consider updated technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of e-waste which, if adopted, will constitute a set of globally agreed, practical procedures for reducing the harmful impacts on human health and environment. For more on e-waste see:

http://www.basel.int/tabid/4063/Default.aspx

Listing of Chemicals: Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention

Two new chemicals are proposed for listing in Annex A to the Stockholm Convention, namely the pesticide Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) its salts and PFOA-related compounds (some applications with time-limited exemptions). Listing in Annex A to the Convention obliges Parties to eliminate these chemicals from use. The two chemicals are proposed for listing on the basis of a robust review process addressing risks, management options and alternatives by the UN’s POPs Review Committee. Dicofol is used as a miticide on a variety of field crops, fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and tea and coffee and is known to cause skin irritation and hyperstimulation of nerve transmissions in humans as well as being highly toxic to fish, aquatic invertebrates, algae and birds. PFOA is a widely-used industrial chemical used in the production of non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, as well as a surfactant in textiles, carpets, paper, paints and fire-fighting foams. As a substance of very high concern, it is known to be linked to major health problems including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease and hypertension in pregnancy. More information on these chemicals is available in factsheets at:

http://chm.pops.int/tabid/243/Default.aspx

Listing of Chemicals: Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals under the Rotterdam Convention

Three new chemicals are proposed for listing in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention, namely acetochlor and phorate (pesticides) and hexabromocyclododecane (an industrial chemical). The COP will further consider four “old” chemicals recommended for listing during previous COPs, which met all the criteria but for which consensus was not yet reached, namely carbosulfan, fenthion and paraquat formulations, and chrysotile asbestos. If listed, these chemicals would be included in the prior informed consent (PIC) procedure enabling better-informed decision-making on the trade in chemicals, thereby protecting human health and the environment. More information on these chemicals is available at:

http://www.pic.int/tabid/1185/Default.aspx

Accredited journalists from the Geneva press corps are encouraged to attend. Other journalists may seek accreditation by using the online guidance and forms found at:

http://www.brsmeas.org/tabid/7980/Default.aspx

Notes for Editors:

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 Parties. With an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes and other wastes, its scope covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous” based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash. See www.basel.int

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 161 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 Convention does not introduce bans but facilitates the exchange of information among Parties on hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and their potential risks, 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. See www.pic.int

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Convention requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 182 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. To date, 28 chemicals of global concern have been listed under the Stockholm Convention. See www.pops.int

  • For BRS conventions general media enquiries see: www.brsmeas.org or contact:
    Charlie AVIS, Public Information Officer (UN Environment), Geneva +41-79-730-4495

[1] World Health Organization, 2018)‎The public health impact of chemicals: knowns and unknowns: data addendum for  2016. http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/279001

[2] Data from “Marine litter plastics and microplastics and their toxic chemicals components: the need for urgent preventive measures” by Frederic Gallo et. al. in Environmental Sciences Europe 2018; 30(1): 13, at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5918521/

[3] Joint report of WEF/PACE and the UN Coalition on E-waste, 2019 “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_A_New_Circular_Vision_for_Electronics.pdf

[4] Desforges et. al., Science 361, 1373-1376 (2018) Predicting global killer whale population collapse from PCB pollution, available at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/361/6409/1373

1.6 million deaths could be prevented annually through the sound management of chemicals and waste

To mark World Health Day on 7th April, read the BRS Secretariat’s Press Release calling for greater action to prevent illness and death from unsound management of chemicals and waste.

1.6 million deaths could be prevented annually through the sound management of chemicals and waste

1.6 million deaths could be prevented annually through the sound management of chemicals and waste

Geneva, 5 April 2019 – Recently, the World Health Organization estimated the ‘disease burden’ preventable through sound management and reduction of chemicals in the environment at around 1.6 million lives per year.1 As the international community marks World Health Day, three UN conventions whose aim is the sound management of chemicals and waste are stressing the need for urgent and greater actions from governments to reduce the number of illnesses and death from hazardous chemicals and wastes.

Causes of death attributable to unsound management of chemicals and wastes include cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congenital anomalies, chronic kidney disease, poisonings, and self-harm.2

One of the pathways taken by hazardous chemicals into the human body is through our food and liquid intake. Persistent Organic Pollutants (or POPs) are highly toxic chemicals known to be carcinogenic, which accumulate in the fatty tissue of mammals, birds and fish. POPs become more concentrated in higher reaches of the food chain, culminating in humans, potentially leading to serious health effects including certain cancers birth defects dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to diseases, and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. Toxic chemicals present in the air also impact our health if we inhale them.

The Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions work to protect people from these harmful impacts in a multitude of ways. With 187, 161, and 182 parties respectively, the three conventions are nearly universal and are legally-binding, covering the life-cycle of hazardous chemicals and wastes, protecting human health and the environment at every stage. This starts with the reduction and elimination of toxic chemicals, includes the minimisation and environmentally sound management of wastes such as electronic waste, mercury waste, plastic waste and more, as well as the creation of innovative public-private partnerships to tackle household waste, mobile phones, and computing equipment.

For example, the Basel Convention – which in March 2019 marked 30 years since adoption and which is primarily concerned with providing the legal framework for controlling transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and other wastes – has developed globally-agreed technical guidelines on how to manage different waste streams in an environmentally sound manner, including the prevention of impacts on human health from lead acid batteries, healthcare and medical waste, and electronic waste, to name just three.

The Rotterdam Convention features transparent trade regulation measures and an obligatory information-sharing system to enable and ensure informed decision-making from governments regarding the refusal, or import and proper use, of more than 50 hazardous industrial chemicals and agricultural pesticides already listed under the Convention. This has led to lowered health risks to people handling such substances, especially including vulnerable groups such as the rural poor, and women and children.

Meanwhile Parties to the Stockholm Convention have listed 28 of the world’s most toxic substances, leading to measurable lowered human exposure as a result of these chemicals’ reduction or elimination, as demonstrated through the Convention’s Global Monitoring Plan which found lowered levels globally in polychlorinated diphenyls (PCBs), DDT and dioxins and furans.3

At the same time, the need for urgent action to achieve the sound management of chemicals and wastes was a key concern at the recent Fourth UN Environment Assembly, where a Resolution4 was adopted on this subject calling on governments and all other relevant stakeholders to take note of progress achieved by the chemicals and waste conventions and to encourage all stakeholders to seek the establishment of permanent programs of information directed to consumers and the public in general, on the risks generated by chemicals and raise awareness of the responsibilities related to their management.

Further decisions which will help prevent illness and reduce preventable deaths will be taken at the next Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, in Geneva from 29 April to 10 May 2019, the theme for which is “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”. Draft decisions to be discussed include the listing under the Stockholm Convention of the fluorinated chemical Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), widely used as a water and oil repellent and found to contaminate drinking water supplies in many communities and Dicofol, a highly toxic organochlorine pesticide used to control mites on many crops and known to be harmful to humans and the environment; the listing of seven additional chemicals under the Rotterdam Convention; and a new Basel Convention partnership on plastic waste and amendments to better incorporate plastic waste into the existing control mechanisms of the Convention.

Notes for Editors:

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 Parties. With an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, its scope covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous” based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash. See www.basel.int

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 161 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 Convention does not introduce bans but facilitates the exchange of information among Parties on hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and their potential risks, 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.See www.pic.int

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Convention requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 182 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. To date, 28 chemicals of global concern have been listed under the Stockholm Convention.

For BRS conventions general media enquiries see: www.brsmeas.org or contact:

Charlie AVIS,
Public Information Officer (UN Environment), Geneva
+41-79-730-4495

 

 


1 World Health Organization, 201, The public health impact of chemicals: knowns and unknowns: data addendum for 2016. www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/279001

2 Ibid.

3 See Stockholm Convention factsheets available at: chm.pops.int/?tabid=5559

4 UNEP, 2019, Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste, Resolution UNEP/EA.4/L.9 - Available at: https://papersmart.unon.org/resolution/uploads/k1900787.pdf

 

1989-2019: 30 years of the legally-binding Basel Convention

With 187 Parties, the Basel Convention has come a long way since adoption on 22 March 1989. Read the BRS Press Release marking this milestone.

1989-2019: 30 years of the legally-binding Basel Convention

1989-2019: 30 years of the legally-binding Basel Convention

22nd March 2019 - With an estimated 12,000 million tonnes of plastic entering landfills or the natural environment by 2050 under current trends1, and with an estimated 50 million tonnes of electronic waste being generated every year - projected to triple by 20502 - the international community mobilised in Geneva today to renew calls for more comprehensive and effective approaches to waste management. The need for urgent action to achieve the sound management of wastes was a key concern at the recent Fourth UN Environment Assembly where States pledged to work towards defining national targets at the earliest opportunity for reducing waste generation and increasing the reuse of products and recycling of waste.

With public awareness focussing largely on marine plastic litter, “a upstream focus on tackling at source the problem of waste is required more than ever before”, said Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention,3 a nearly universal environmental treaty aimed at ensuring the prevention and minimization of the generation of hazardous wastes and other wastes as well as their environmentally sound management, in addition to provisions aimed at controlling their exports and imports.

The international community marked the Convention’s 30th anniversary at an event today in Geneva, Switzerland, during which the many implementation successes were presented and discussed. Commenting on these, Mr Payet noted that “the Basel Convention has an impressive record of continuous innovation and evolution: the waste management problems of 1989, when it was adopted, were very different to the challenges we face today, and I am proud that Parties continue to see it as the principal legally-binding instrument with which to tackle such urgent issues as electronic waste, and plastic waste, issues which were not on our radar thirty years ago. The proposal to amend the Convention to more comprehensively deal with plastic waste, for example, which will be considered next month here in Geneva, demonstrates the continued relevance of this process and the trust that Parties have in our collective ability to step up and find solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, together.”

This evolution is marked by new priorities that have enriched this treaty and gradually complemented the core business of the Convention, which is the control of transboundary movement of wastes. In 1999, the importance of the environmentally sound management of wastes became a strengthened area of focus; in 2006, heightened attention was given to the sound management of the particular challenging waste stream of electrical and electronic wastes; in 2008, the protection of human health from the hazards of wastes gained increased momentum; and in 2010, setting yet a new chapter in the life of the Convention, prevention and minimization of wastes gained increased support as the importance of working “upstream” was acknowledged. The Convention thus perpetually remains modern and very close to the everyday lives of all citizens: we each have the responsibility and opportunity to contribute towards achieving its objectives.

Household Waste

Central to minimising waste, including plastics, is tackling waste generation at the household level. The environmentally sound management of household waste – a major challenge especially for developing countries – is particularly difficult since not only is the quantity of waste generated increasing rapidly, but the composition of that waste is changing rapidly as well. For that reason, a Basel Convention Partnership on Household Waste was initiated in 2017 to explore and disseminate innovative solutions, an integrated approach, avoidance and minimisation of waste at source as well as systems for the collection, separation, transport, storage, treatment, processing, recycling and where necessary, final disposal, of household waste. More information is available here: http://www.basel.int/?tabid=5082

Plastic Waste

Fortunately, world attention continues to be focussed on the problems associated with plastic waste. The Basel Convention offers avenues for all States to take collective action towards minimising plastic waste generation at source and promoting their environmentally sound management. The next Conference of the Parties (COP), 29 April to 10 May 2019, will consider a range of additional steps to better address the challenges of plastics wastes4 including proposed amendments to the Convention on plastic wastes5; and the establishment of a new Partnership on Plastic Waste. This Partnership is designed as an international vehicle for public-private cooperation, sharing of best practices, and technical assistance in the area of at-source measures to minimise and more effectively manage plastic waste, thus helping tackle the global environmental problem of marine plastic litter. More information on minimising plastic waste is available here:http://www.basel.int/?tabid=6068

Electronic Waste

Electronic waste – or E-waste – is one of the fastest growing streams of hazardous waste in the world and is fuelled by the rapid growth in computing and mobile phone equipment sales. E-waste is considered hazardous due to the presence of toxic substances such as mercury, lead, and brominated flame retardants which are harmful to both human health and the wider environment. E-waste may also include precious and economically valuable metals such as gold, copper and nickel as well as rare materials of strategic value such as indium and palladium. The Basel Convention established innovative public-private partnerships to develop and implement policy responses to these issues and to build capacity in developing countries to manage e-waste, including globally-agreed Technical Guidelines on the transboundary movements of E-waste, pilot projects, and a Massive, Open, Online Course (MOOC) on E-waste which was undertaken by approximately 1,000 participants. The next Basel Convention COP may consider a new Partnership to build on these successes. The technical guidelines are available here: http://www.basel.int/?tabid=6068  

Notes for editors:

The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, or BRS Secretariat, supports Parties implement the three leading multilateral environment agreements governing chemicals and waste, in order to protect human health and the environment. See www.brsmeas.org for more info and follow @brsmeas twitter feed for daily news.

For Media enquiries, interviews, more information, contact:

Charlie Avis
Public Information Officer
BRS Secretariat
Charles.avis@brsmeas.org
Tel: +41-79-7304495

 

 


1 UN Environment UNEP/AHEG/2018/1/INF/3: Combating marine plastic litter and microplastics: an assessment of the effectiveness of relevant international, regional and subregional governance strategies and approaches; p.9;  full report: https://papersmart.unon.org/resolution/uploads/unep_aheg_2018_inf3_full_assessment_en.pdf

2 Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy PACE, 2019, A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot full report: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_A_New_Circular_Vision_for_Electronics.pdf

3 The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 Parties. For more information, see www.basel.int

 

Women disproportionately vulnerable to health risks from chemical and waste pollution

To mark International Women’s Day, read our new Press Release on why women and girls are more likely than men to suffer adverse effects from chemicals and waste.

Women disproportionately vulnerable to health risks from chemical and waste pollution

Women disproportionately vulnerable to health risks from chemical and waste pollution

8 March 2019 - Due to a combination of socio-economic, cultural, and physiological factors, women and girls are disproportionately vulnerable to the harmful impact of pollution from chemicals and waste. At the same time, in many countries, women are increasingly assuming leadership roles in raising awareness, and protecting their communities, from these impacts.

The adverse effects of hazardous chemicals and wastes on different groups of the population vary depending on the level of exposure, behavioural patterns, age, biological effect (for example, endocrine disruption), geographical location, nutritional status and co-exposure to other chemicals. Certain types of chemicals, such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), can build up to dangerous levels in humans causing adverse reproductive, developmental, immunological, hormonal, and carcinogenic effects with varied impacts on vulnerable groups of the population.

Women are often more exposed to chemicals and waste as a result of different socio-economic roles, defined along gender lines. According to a study in Indonesia, and indeed in many countries, women are still expected to perform the bulk of domestic work in and around the house, including the sorting, removal, and disposal of household waste, which in many cases include open burning of plastics and other household waste. This practice exposes women to highly toxic persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals with significant impacts on their health and as potential child bearers. Recent body burden analysis has shown that such chemicals do get passed out to children during pregnancy.1

In farming, more than 40% of agricultural work in developing countries is done by women and girls. Because women are twice as likely to be illiterate2 as men, vital chemical and safety information is often overlooked, increasing the likelihood of mis-handling and consequent unintended exposure to pesticides.

Cultural norms also impact on women and girls’ vulnerabilities. Of the estimated 13,000 chemicals3 used in beauty and hygiene products only about 10% have been evaluated for safety. A recent study concluded that women of colour, independent of socio-economic status, are most exposed to higher levels of such chemicals4 as a result of using products such as skin-whiteners and hair products, which often contain toxic substances, including heavy metals such as mercury and lead.

Such socio-economic and cultural factors are compounded by physiological differences between women and men, since their smaller size and role in the reproductive cycle, women are proportionately more heavily impacted than men even when exposure is the same. Up to 33% of a woman’s chemical burden can be passed on to her baby during gestation, through the placenta, as well as via breastfeeding.5 Women are often not even aware of the health risks they are facing, especially given that some of these chemicals can remain in the body for long periods and manifest themselves later in time.

On the other hand, there has been progress. Women are increasingly stepping forward to take on leadership roles to protect the most vulnerable segments of our population from the potentially harmful effects of certain chemicals and wastes. Both the Gender Heroes publication and the Gender Pioneers initiative under the BRS Conventions point to examples of the empowerment of women in marginalised communities and the impacts that their actions have had, for example, in the promotion of ecological agriculture, in the reduction of use of highly hazardous pesticides, in the protection of children from the toxics found in toys, and in the safer recovery and management of recyclable elements of e-waste from landfill sites. For more information on the BRS Gender Heroes and Gender Pioneers see: http://www.brsmeas.org/?tabid=4759

These examples emphasise the need for enhanced gender considerations and sound management of chemicals and wastes in the broader push for implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Indeed the relationship between chemicals and wastes and gender, under SDG 5, requires constant emphasis, attention, and mainstreaming. This will be further explored during the next Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, in Geneva from 29 April to 10 May 2019, the theme for which is “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”.

Notes for Editors:

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 Parties. With an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, its scope covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous” based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash. See www.basel.int

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 161 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 Convention does not introduce bans but facilitates the exchange of information among Parties on hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and their potential risks, 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. See www.pic.int

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Convention requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 182 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. To date, 28 chemicals of global concern have been listed under the Stockholm Convention.

For more on gender aspects of chemicals and waste, see http://www.brsmeas.org/?tabid=3651 or contact Susan WINGFIELD, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), Geneva: +41-79-233-3218, +41-22-917-78406, susan.wingfield@brsmeas.org

For BRS conventions general media enquiries see www.brsmeas.org or contact Charlie AVIS, Public Information Officer (UN Environment), Geneva +41-79-730-4495

 


1 From the BRS Scoping Study on Gender in Indonesia, full report here: http://www.brsmeas.org/?tabid=5816

2 Both statistics from FAO data summarised in the infographic at: http://www.fao.org/resources/infographics/infographics-details/en/c/180754/

3 Zota & Shamasunder, 2017, The environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from beauty products as a health disparities concern, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Vol 127(4):418 online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28822238

4 Ibid

5 UNDP, 2017, Gender Mainstreaming - a Key Driver of Development in Environment & Energy. Available online: http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/Environment%20and%20Energy/Sustainable%20Energy/Gender_Mainstreaming_Training_Manual_2007.pdf

Scientists predict collapse of wildlife populations due to pollution from chemicals and waste

With people everywhere marking World Wildlife Day on 3 March, read the new BRS Press Release on the impact of chemicals and waste on our planet’s fauna.

Scientists predict collapse of wildlife populations due to pollution from chemicals and waste

Scientists predict collapse of wildlife populations due to pollution from chemicals and waste

The impact of pollution - from chemicals and waste - on wildlife is far-reaching and its consequences are likely to be lethal to many species. Even the world’s seemingly pristine habitats show signs of pollution from plastics, whilst one group of toxic chemicals – the Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs – are by their very nature able to travel long-distances, ending up in remote regions far from industrialisation such as the Arctic.

Bird populations have long been known to be vulnerable to chemical pesticides, with the renowned writer Rachel Carson first bringing public attention to this in her seminal work from 1962, “Silent Spring”. Last year’s State of the World’s Birds report[1] by Birdlife International found that more than 1,400 species, or 1 in 8 of all bird species, are currently threatened with extinction, with more than 1,000 species at risk from agriculture and a further 200 from pollution. Bees and other pollinators are similarly impacted by chemical use, with UN Environment[2] recently noting that more than 75% of food crops and 90% of wild flowering plants are dependent upon pollinators for their existence and that the application of chemicals such as neonicotinoids is strongly implicated as adversely affecting bees and other pollinators.

Sadly, the body of evidence for such impacts is growing. Recently, scientists[3] concluded that entire populations of killer whales, for example, are threatened due to their exposure to just one group of POPs, known as PCBs - or polychlorinated biphenyls. Before being controlled under the UN’s Stockholm Convention when it entered into force in 2004, PCBs were widely produced and used in electric transformers and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics, especially in North America, Europe and Japan. Once released, PCBs found their way into the food chain and have accumulated in the bodies of killer whales or orcas (Orcinus orca sp.) where they have impacted upon the whales’ immunity and reproductive systems, leading to lower calving rates. Concentrations of chemicals such as PCBs may be transmitted from mothers to young already in the womb through the placenta, passing the toxic legacy on to future generations.

As a result, populations of whales found in Brazilian, Japanese, Pacific north-west of America, United Kingdom, and northern Pacific (Biggs) waters are all tending towards complete collapse, as a result of PCB contamination[4].

That PCBs were already banned in many countries several years ago shows how persistent these chemicals are, underlining the need for the fullest possible implementation of the Stockholm Convention, and its sibling conventions dealing with chemicals and waste, including the Rotterdam and the Basel conventions.

The wide geographical extent of PCB contamination also stresses the need for global collaborative action towards the sound management of chemicals and waste. The international community will soon come together at the fourth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4: Nairobi, 11 to 15 March 2019), and again at the joint meetings of the conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions (Triple COPs: Geneva, 29 April to 11 May 2019) to consider proposals for strengthening international governance to deal with pollution, including from plastic waste and from POPs. The theme of the next Triple COPs is “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”.

For example, Parties to the Stockholm Convention will discuss listing 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, and in firefighting foams. The chemical 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[5]. Listing PFOA under the Convention would require its elimination, thus protecting current and future generations of people and wildlife from its harmful impacts.

Notes for Editors:

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. Given their long-range transport, global action is needed to protect citizens and the environment from POPs. In response to this global problem, the Stockholm Convention, which was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 182 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. To date, 28 chemicals of global concern have been listed under the Stockholm Convention.

For more information, please contact:

  • For Stockholm Convention, PCBs, and other POPs: www.pops.int or contact:
    Kei OHNO WOODALL, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), Geneva: +41-79-233-3218, +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 +41-79-730-4495

[1] Birdlife International, 2018, State of the World’s Birds 2017, available at: https://www.birdlife.org/sites/default/files/attachments/BL_ReportENG_V11_spreads.pdf

[2] UN Environment, 2016, Pollinators under threat: So what? Foresight Brief no.11 available at: https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/pollinators-under-threat-so-what

[3] Desforges et. al., Science 361, 1373-1376 (2018) Predicting global killer whale population collapse from PCB pollution, available at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/361/6409/1373

[4] ibid

Read the BRS Press Release on Plastics in the Mountains

In Geneva on International Mountains Day, experts urge greater efforts to beat plastic pollution upstream, since Mountains Matter.

Read the BRS Press Release on Plastics in the Mountains

Read the BRS Press Release on Plastics in the Mountains

As International Mountains Day is marked around the world, and recognition grows that the global plastics problem is not restricted to our oceans, mountain experts call for renewed action to tackle plastic pollution.

With public attention focussing largely on marine plastic litter, “a focus upstream on tackling the problem at source is required more than ever before”, says Carlos Martin-Novella, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention,[1] a nearly universal treaty aimed at ensuring the prevention and minimization of the generation of hazardous wastes and other wastes as well as their environmentally sound management, in addition to provisions aimed at controlling their exports and imports.

Speaking at an event in Geneva, Switzerland today at which mountain experts were brought together to discuss ways forward for relieving mountain regions from the pressure of pollution, Martin-Novella went on to say that “the fact that even high-altitude mountains like the Alps – thought to be a relatively clean environment - are significantly polluted by plastics shows that we really cannot wait, we must strengthen existing international instruments and we must accelerate their implementation.” Recent research also identified microplastic pollution even high up in the Swiss mountains, with researchers concluding that this microplastics contamination must be windborne[2].

Central to minimising waste, including plastics, is tackling waste generation at the household level. Household waste – a major challenge especially for developing countries – is particularly difficult since not only is the quantity of waste generated increasing rapidly, but the composition of that waste is changing rapidly as well. For that reason, a Basel Convention Partnership on Household Waste was initiated in 2017 to explore and disseminate innovative solutions, an integrated approach, avoidance and minimisation of waste at source as well systems for the collection, separation, transport, storage, treatment, processing, recycling and where necessary, final disposal, of household waste. More information is available here.

Indeed, world attention continues to be focussed on the problems associated with plastic waste. A multi-faceted problem which will require multiple solutions, the Basel Convention offers avenues for minimising plastic waste generation at source and promoting their environmentally sound management, which led to a decision at a recent experts’ meeting in Geneva proposing a new Partnership on Plastic Wastes under the Basel Convention[3]. This partnership, which could be established by Parties in May next year, would be an international vehicle for public-private cooperation, sharing of best practices, and technical assistance in the area of at-source measures to minimise and more effectively manage plastic waste, thus helping tackle the global environmental problem of plastic litter, including in the oceans. More information on minimising plastic wastes is available here.

NOTES for EDITORS:

The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, or BRS Secretariat, supports parties implement the three leading multilateral environment agreements governing chemicals and waste, in order to protect human health and the environment. See www.brsmeas.org for more info and follow @brsmeas twitter feed for daily news.

Media enquiries, interviews, more information, contact:

Charlie Avis
Public Information Officer
BRS Secretariat
Charles.avis@brsmeas.org
Tel: +41-79-7304495


[1] The Basel  Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 Parties. For more information, see www.basel.int

[2] A University of Bern paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, quoted in The Guardian on 27 April 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/27/the-hills-are-alive-with-the-signs-of-plastic-even-swiss-mountains-are-polluted

Basel Convention partnerships take action to minimise solid waste generation

The BRS press release on Basel Convention partnerships is online, marking World Habitat Day 2018 and its focus on solid waste.

Basel Convention partnerships take action to minimise solid waste generation

Basel Convention partnerships take action to minimise solid waste generation

As World Habitat Day is marked around the world and attention is focussed on the challenges for improving solid waste management, a UN convention on waste strengthens the partnership approach to develop and disseminate best practices for waste minimisation.

These partnerships have been initiated and facilitated by the Basel Convention,[1] and feature alliances of government, the private sector, local municipalities, civil society and environmental organisations. They identify, develop, and disseminate innovative approaches for solid waste management, targetting some of the most urgent waste streams through the development of technical support to countries for the environmentally sound management of waste.

Central to minimising waste is tackling waste generation at the household level. Household waste – a major challenge especially for developing countries – is particularly difficult since not only is the quantity of waste generated increasing rapidly, but the composition of that waste is also changing rapidly as well. For that reason, the Partnership on Household Waste was initiated in 2017 with a remit to explore and disseminate innovative solutions for the promotion of an integrated approach including avoidance and minimisation of waste at source as well systems for the collection, separation, transport, storage, treatment, processing, recycling and where necessary, final disposal, of household waste. More information on the Partnership on Household Waste is available here:

http://www.basel.int/Implementation/HouseholdWastePartnerships/Overview/tabid/5082/Default.aspx

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is thought to be the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. E-waste is categorised as hazardous to the presence of toxic materials such as lead, mercury, and brominated flame retardants but might also contain precious metals such as gold, copper and nickel. The threat to human health, when attempting to retrieve these precious materials, is considerable. For that reason, the Partnership on Action on Computing Equipment (PACE) was initiated and to date has implemented pilot projects on environmentally sound management across the world including in Africa, and in central and south America, aimed at building capacity for governments and municipalities, and in the private sector, for handling e-waste in a safe and effective manner. The partnership has also produced technical guidelines, available in all 6 UN languages, for the environmentally sound management of e-waste, available here:

http://www.basel.int/Implementation/TechnicalAssistance/Partnerships/PACE/Overview/tabid/3243/Default.aspx 

Finally, world attention continues to be focussed on the problems associated with plastic waste, marine litter, and microplastics. A multi-faceted problem which will require multiple solutions, the Basel Convention offers hope for minimising plastic waste generation at source, which led to a decision at a recent experts meeting in Geneva  proposing new Partnership on Plastic Waste under the Basel Convention, designed as an international vehicle for public-private cooperation, sharing of best practices, and technical assistance in the area of at-source measures to minimise and more effectively manage plastic waste, thus helping tackle the global environmental problem of marine plastic litter. More information on minimising plastic waste is available here:

http://www.basel.int/Implementation/MarinePlasticLitterandMicroplastics/Overview/tabid/6068/Default.aspx

For further information:

BRS Press Enquiries
Charlie Avis
Public Information Officer
Charles.avis@brsmeas.org 
Tel: +41-79-7304495


[1] The Basel  Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 186 Parties. For more information, see www.basel.int

Stockholm Convention’s scientific committee recommends listing PFOA in Annex A

The press release of the 14th meeting of the POPs Review Committee is available online.

Stockholm Convention’s scientific committee recommends listing PFOA in Annex A

Stockholm Convention’s scientific committee recommends listing PFOA in Annex A

As the UN reports that 2.78 million workers worldwide die each year from exposure to toxic substances in unsafe workplaces[1], a UN global scientific committee recommends eliminating two more toxic chemicals, to protect human health and the environment.

The UN Stockholm Convention’s Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) held its 14th meeting at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters in Rome, from 17 - 21 September 2018. More than 150 chemicals experts, from all UN regions, attended the meeting.

The Committee recommended to eliminate 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, and in firefighting foams. The chemical 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[2].

This recent recommendation, together with the additional recommendation made by the Committee at its previous meeting, held in October 2017, to eliminate the pesticide dicofol[3], will be considered by the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP), which will be held in Geneva from 29 April to 10 May 2019.

The theme of the next COP is: Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste. To date, 28 chemicals of global concern have been listed under the Stockholm Convention.

Dicofol is a pesticide similar to DDT, used to control mites on field crops, tea, cotton, fruits and vegetables and ornamentals, highly toxic to fish, birds, aquatic organisms and algae and posing a health risk to humans.

Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, stressed that “The Committee has found that both Dicofol and PFOA satisfy all criteria for listing, has considered additional information, and has made its recommendation, and so the decision to list will be discussed by Parties to the Convention at their next available opportunity, the next COP in April next year. At a time when the sound management of chemicals is high on the public agenda, once again the work of this Committee is shown to be exemplary in its approach and robustness, making recommendations aimed at protecting human health and environment: truly, working for a clean planet and healthy people.”

The Executive Secretary expressed his thanks to the members of the Committee for their hard work, evident from research showing a reduction in some POPs worldwide, according to data collected by the Convention’s Global Monitoring Plan.

Note for Editors:

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. Given their long-range transport, global action is needed to protect citizens and the environment from POPs.

In response to this global problem, the Stockholm Convention, which was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 182 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage.

For more information, please contact:

  • For POPRC/Stockholm Convention: www.pops.int or contact:
    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

[1] From “The Report Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes” A/HRC/39/48, presented 12 September 2018 to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council, Geneva. Available online at: XXX



4 hazardous chemicals recommended to be listed in Rotterdam Convention annex

The Press Release of the 14th Meeting of the Chemical Review Committee, which closed on 13 September in Rome, is available online.

4 hazardous chemicals recommended to be listed in Rotterdam Convention annex

4 hazardous chemicals recommended to be listed in Rotterdam Convention annex

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

New era for waste management heralded as waste experts agree a raft of decisions including on marine plastic litter and microplastics

The Press Release of the 11th Meeting of the Basel Convention’s Open-ended Working Group is now online.

New era for waste management heralded as waste experts agree a raft of decisions including on marine plastic litter and microplastics

New era for waste management heralded as waste experts agree a raft of decisions including on marine plastic litter and microplastics

UN convention on wastes makes breakthrough recommendations to address global marine litter and other types of wastes

6th September 2018: Geneva, Switzerland - Momentum was built in Geneva this week to better address wastes including marine plastic litter and microplastics, through decisions adopted today by the Open-ended Working Group of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal[1].

More than 400 experts from 135 countries and international organisations, including industry associations, met and today adopted a suit of decisions related to wastes, including marine plastic litter and microplastics, electronic waste, and household waste.

Additionally, a High Level Event was organised bringing together more than 70 ambassadors and heads of international organisations to further enhance the commitment for global action for marine plastic litter.

Decision, which will now be submitted to the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (or COP), to be held at the end of April 2019 in Geneva, include the following:

A proposed new Partnership on Plastic Waste under the Basel Convention, designed as an international vehicle for public-private cooperation, sharing of best practices, and technical assistance in the area of at-source measures to minimise and more effectively manage plastic waste, thus helping tackle the global environmental problem of marine plastic litter;

Consideration of possible amendments to Annexes of the Convention, in relation to solid plastic waste, in order to assist Parties to better minimise and control their transboundary movement;

Further development of the Technical Guidelines on Electronic Waste (or E-waste), which are available for use by Parties to assist in implementing environmentally sound management of E-waste, which is amongst the fastest-growing waste-streams in the world, as well as consideration of options a new partnership on e-waste to follow the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE);

Further development of the Household Waste Partnership under the Basel Convention, aiming for an integrated approach for household waste management, acknowledged as one of the key challenges related to waste management faced by national governments, particularly in developing countries;

Enhanced cooperation with World Customs Organisation to strengthen the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, used by customs authorities to improve the control of wastes crossing borders.

Finalisation of the draft Manuals on Extended Producer Responsibility, which when completed can assist Parties with concrete actions for promoting the life-cycle approach in the manufacturing of products through to recycling.

Speaking today shortly before closing, the meeting’s Co-Chairs Mr. Mohamed Kashashneh (Jordan) and Ms. Justina Grigaraviciene (Lithuania) congratulated the Parties on reaching what they deemed to be “an historical outcome regarding marine plastic litter and microplastics. This and other decisions taken this week will bring the Basel Convention to a new era of effectiveness in helping Parties minimize and sustainably manage their wastes.”

Reflecting upon both the OEWG11 and the High Level Event, Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, said that the decisions of the OEWG11, combined with heightened international commitment “constitute an important step in addressing the technical, legal, and political dimensions of the problem of marine plastic litter and pollution from other hazardous wastes. These three dimensions reinforce one another and are all vital for tackling such a ubiquitous and significant set of issues and challenges.”.

Meetings continue with the organisation of the 13th Meeting of the Basel Convention’s Implementation and Compliance Committee (ICC13) back-to-back with OEWG11, at which progress is expected on a range of relevant legal questions. Details of decisions taken at ICC13 will be posted on the BRS website in due course.

For further information:

Susan Wingfield
Programme Officer, for OEWG-11
Susan.Wingfield@brsmeas.org
Tel: +41-22-9178406

Juliette Voinov Kohler
Legal officer, for ICC-13
Juliette.Kohler@brsmeas.org
Tel: +41-22-9178219

BRS Press Enquiries

Charlie Avis
Public Information Officer
Charles.Avis@brsmeas.org 
Tel: +41-79-7304495

 



[1] The Basel  Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 186 Parties. For more information, see www.basel.int

Norwegian event on POPs and Body Burden re-affirms need to take action on chemicals and waste

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, and Rolph Payet, BRS Executive Secretary, shared a platform in Arendal, Norway on 15 August 2018 to raise awareness on toxic chemicals and their impacts on human health.


Norwegian event on POPs and Body Burden re-affirms need to take action on chemicals and waste

Norwegian event on POPs and Body Burden re-affirms need to take action on chemicals and waste

The Executive Secretary of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, Rolph Payet, today re-affirmed the need for concerted global and national action towards sound management of chemicals and waste, to beat pollution and better protect people from its harmful effects.

Speaking today at an event in Arendal, Norway, Payet was joined by the head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, and members of civil society and the academic sector to discuss the latest “Body Burden” blood testing results. Testing was carried out on Nina Jensen, Chief Executive Officer of the Norwegian Research Expedition Vessel, and her new-born baby boy, Eik. Body Burden testing analyses the levels in human blood of Persistent Organic Pollutants (or POPs), which are regulated by the UN Environment-administered Stockholm Convention, which seeks to reduce and eliminate these most toxic of substances across the world.

Professor Bert van Bavel, from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, who conducted the analysis, said that “Nina’s results suggest that the level of our contamination by many of the 12 POPs listed when the Convention came into force, in 2004, are decreasing. Levels of traditional chlorinated and brominated compounds were below the detection limit. Only DDE, HCB and PCB were found at low levels. This positive result is mirrored by the worldwide monitoring data collected by the Stockholm Convention through its Global Monitoring Plan. However, several fluorinated compounds (PFAS) were found in both Nina and her baby boy, which is highly disturbing and should prompt all decision-makers and the general public to do more and join together to beat pollution and rid the world of POPs” he added.

The Global Monitoring Plan collects data on POPs in human blood, human milk, air and water from across the world and is used to evaluate the effectiveness of the Stockholm Convention in protecting human health and the environment.

“Chemicals might be invisible, but they are in fact everywhere,” said Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Convention, “even, sadly, in the bloodstream of new-born babies. The Convention’s 182 Parties have made good progress in phasing out many of the first 12 POPs originally listed in the Convention in 2004 and on listing many more chemicals in the years since then. Scientific monitoring data, collected by the Global Monitoring Plan, confirms decreasing trends in concentrations of several legacy POPs over time, constituting real gains for human health and the environment. However, much more needs to be done at global and national levels to reduce and eliminate the POPs more recently added to the Convention, to finish eliminating certain legacy POPs which still require action such as PCBs, and to tackle the related and pressing problems associated with marine litter and microplastics, whereby POPs enter our bodies through the food chain.”

“I took the Body Burden test some years ago and I was shocked by the presence of such a toxic cocktail in my blood, even though I considered myself healthy and even though grew up in a clean, Scandinavian environment” said Stine Lisa Hattestad Bratsberg, the Co-Chair of Safe Planet, and Olympic skiing champion and businesswoman. Body Burden is part of the Safe Planet movement, an online community of stakeholders and concerned members of the public, which aims to raise public awareness for positive change towards the sound management of chemicals and waste worldwide. Along with American actor Ed Begley Jr., Bratsberg was the first person to take the test (in 2010).

Notes for Editors:

POPs and the Stockholm Convention

Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damages to the central and peripheral nervous systems. Given their long-range transport, no one government acting alone can protect its citizens or its environment from POPs. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, is a global treaty requiring its parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment, to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls or PCBs

These compounds are used in industry as heat exchange fluids, in electric transformers and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics. Large numbers of people have been exposed to PCBs through food contamination. They are toxic to fish, killing them at higher doses and causing spawning failures at lower doses. Research also links PCBs to reproductive failure and suppression of the immune system in various wild animals, such as seals and mink. The PCBs web section covers overview, decisions, guidance, meetings, workshops, and webinars additional resources.

Hexachlorobenzene or HCB

In high doses, HCB is lethal to some animals and, at lower levels, adversely affects their reproductive success. It is found in food of all types.

Safe Planet and Body Burden

Safe Planet is a global public awareness and outreach movement for ensuring the safety of the planet against harm caused or threatened by the production, use and disposal of hazardous chemicals and wastes. Launched in February 2010 during the first extraordinary meeting of the Conferences of the Parties to the conventions, Safe Planet uses social media, celebrity endorsements and community outreach activities to raise awareness especially among consumers, educators and youth, and women. One set of activities of the movement centre around Body Burden blood-testing, by which interested individuals find out their toxic chemical burden, highlighting the presence of POPs in their bodies.

Press contact: Charlie Avis, BRS Secretariat email Charles.avis@brsmeas.org tel: +41-79-7304495

For more info on:

Stockholm Convention, POPs, and the Global Monitoring Plan: www.chm.pops.int

Safe Planet: https://www.facebook.com/safe.planet/

UN Environment work on chemicals and health: https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/chemicals-waste

UN scientists recommend listing of 5 more chemicals

The Rotterdam and Stockholm scientific subsidiary bodies’ meetings - CRC13 and POPRC13 - successfully concluded recently in Rome, and the official Press Release is now online.

UN scientists recommend listing of 5 more chemicals

UN scientists recommend listing of 5 more chemicals

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.

ENDS

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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 www.pic.int  or by contacting:

  • Christine FUELL, Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention (FAO), Rome: + 39-06-5705-3765, christine.fuell@fao.org

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 www.chm.pops.int or by contacting:

  • 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 
  • Charlie AVIS, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP), Geneva: +41-79-730-4495, charles.avis@brsmeas.org

 

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