PFOS to be covered by POPs Protocol

An Economic Commission for Europe meeting in December agreed in principle to add the perfluorinated surfactant PFOS to the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Protocol of the UN Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, the government’s Chemicals Stakeholder Forum heard in late January.

But parties disagree over whether to place the substance in annex I, which bans production and use, or annex II, allowing restricted use. Either way, exemptions on uses in aviation hydraulic fluids and some photographic uses are likely to remain.

PFOS is also one of 12 chemicals proposed for addition to the Stockholm Convention on POPs. Nine have been recommended for inclusion by the convention’s POPs review committee.

The chemicals will be discussed at the fourth Conference of Parties in Geneva in May, and may become the first additions to the Convention since its inception in 2001.

PFOA is not a candidate for inclusion in the POPs Protocol or the Stockholm Convention, because it does not meet the standard for bioaccumulation under the EU’s chemical legislation (REACH) but this may change as the PBT criteria are under review.

The decision is controversial in view of transport and health concerns. "They’re finding it in polar bears, and I’m sure they’re not using it up there to make bears less sticky," researcher Professor Lynn Goldman of John Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, US, told ENDS.

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