Experts will meet next month to discuss proposals to add perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) to the UN’s Rotterdam Convention, a move that government and NGO actors say would generate important data about the international trade of the substances.
The Convention’s chemical review committee will consider the two substances at its 16th meeting, to be held virtually from 8-11 September.
Both PFOA and decaBDE were recommended for inclusion at the committee’s last meeting in October 2019. However, at the time, there was debate about the scope of the listing of PFOA regarding how many and which of its salts and compounds should be included. Norway, whose notification along with Canada’s prompted the committee to consider listing the substance, has since expanded its domestic regulations to include more PFOA-related substances. The committee will discuss the country’s since-submitted expanded notification.
Discussions on decaBDE will centre on comments from committee members and other stakeholders about the draft recommendation that was agreed in October.
Joe DiGangi, senior science and technical adviser for NGO network Ipen, said he expects the committee to recommend both substances for inclusion and for countries to agree to their addition to the Convention’s Annex III at the next conference of parties in July 2021.
Chemicals listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention are subject to the prior informed consent (Pic) procedure, meaning receiving countries must be informed of their import and are able to refuse them.
Both decaBDE and PFOA are already listed under the UN’s Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which requires countries to phase out their manufacture and use globally.
However, a number of exemptions are permitted for both of these substances. A listing in the Rotterdam Convention “could thus give valuable information about trade until these exemptions are no longer available,” according to an official from the Norwegian Environment Agency.
Mr DiGangi agreed, adding that the “Rotterdam Convention is underutilised as a means to report and obtain information about chemical regulation and trade … a listing in Annex III provides a prior informed consent procedure to enable countries to control their own borders – something that seemingly every country desires”.
Exemptions to the Stockholm Convention usually last five years, Mr DiGangi said, but both decaBDE and PFOA have been granted “extraordinary” exemptions. For PFOA, use by a pharmaceutical company of one of its related substances – perfluorooctyl iodide – may not expire until 2036. And an exemption for decaBDE’s presence in spare parts of vehicles will either expire at the end of the service life of existing vehicles or in 2036, whichever comes earlier.
In addition to the exemptions, Mr DiGangi pointed out that while Stockholm listings automatically apply to most countries that are a party to the Convention, some have an agreement that they must opt-in to the listing for it to apply to them.
Chemical Watch, 13 August 2020