Persistent pollutants: definition, effects and EU regulation


As the EU moves towards a circular economy, which promotes the re-use and recycling of products, it is taking action to ensure toxic chemicals do not become concentrated in recycled materials. MEPs approved a revision of rules on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in October 2022.

The new rules will further reduce the amount of dangerous chemicals in waste and production processes by introducing stricter limits, removing pollutants from the recycling chain and banning certain chemicals.

What are persistent organic pollutants?

Persistent organic pollutants are toxic chemicals that are slow to break down. When released, they stay in the environment for a long time and accumulate in the food chain and living organisms. That’s why they are also sometimes referred to as forever chemicals.

Because of their persistence, these chemicals can be transported by water, air or migratory species across borders and carried far away from where they were first produced or used. They can also be transferred from one generation to the next, even if they are no longer produced or used.

This means that we can find such pollutants virtually everywhere: in our food, in the air we breathe, in products used in our daily lives such as paint, varnish and soap, and in waste coming from some consumer products such as waterproof textiles, furniture, plastics and electronic equipment.

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The European Times, 6-10-22