New international trade measures for four chemicals

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The Chemical Review Committee (CRC), a subsidiary body of the international Rotterdam Convention, recommended international trade measures for four additional chemicals known to be harmful to human health and the environment.

With the goal to assist 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 September to 13 September 2018 with chemicals experts from all the UN regions attending the meeting.

The four toxic chemicals recommended to be listed are:

  • The pesticide acetochlor used, for example, as a spray herbicide on maize, known to be highly hazardous for birds, aquatic organisms and non-targeted plants and which has harmful impacts on animal reproduction;
  • The industrial chemical Hexabromocyclododecane (or HBCD) 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;
  • 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., Studies have revealed that poisoning and deaths have occurred amongst agricultural workers exposed to this active ingredient;
  • The industrial chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), including its salts and PFOA-related compounds, widely used in domestic non-stick cooking ware and food-processing appliances, surface treatment agent 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.

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. 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 Rotterdam Convention’s Chemicals Review Committee prepares decisions for the Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention, aiming at protecting human health and the environment.

Rolph Payet, 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 it does 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 emphasised 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 was also updated during this meeting to include its latest work experiences”. – Press release