On May 9, 2009, parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (Stockholm POPs) agreed to add 9 new substances to the treaty’s annexes of banned or restricted substances. The Stockholm POPs treaty is an international agreement that initially targeted 12 substances to be eliminated from global commerce, and this month’s decision is the first addition of chemicals to the treaty since the original listing was adopted in 2001.

The decision to add substances was made at the 4th conference of the treaty’s parties. The additions include PFOS, a chemical used in many electronic applications, such as semiconductor chips, photo imaging, textiles, and fire fighting foam; lindane, a pesticide that has been used to combat head lice; chlordecone, an agricultural pesticide; and hexabromobiphenyl, an industrial chemical that has been used as a flame retardant.

The Stockholm POPs treaty, which was signed in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, is an international environmental treaty that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants. The original “dirty dozen” included such chemicals as DDT, chlordane and PCBs. Over 160 countries are member countries or parties to the treaty which means they must enact national legislation to enforce the bans and restrictions imposed by the convention. Parties to the Stockholm POPs treaty include Member States of the European Community as well as China. The United States is not a party to the treaty but attended the convention of the parties as an observer.

At this month’s meeting, eight new chemicals were added to Annex A, which means that they are subject to a ban on their use, import, and export by the treaty’s member countries. The new chemicals targeted for elimination are:

  • alpha hexachlorocyclohexane, produced as an unintended byproduct of lindane
  • beta hexachlorocyclohexane, produced as an unintended byproduct of lindane
  • pentachlorobenzene, used in PCB products, as a fungicide, a flame retardant
  • chlordecone, an agricultural pesticide
  • hexabromobiphenyl, or HBB, a flame retardant
  • lindane, used in creams for treatment head lice; also has been used in insecticides
  • hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether, used in flame retardants
  • tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether, used in flame retardants

Please note that the last three listed above include some specific exceptions. See Earth Negotiations Bulletin, May 8 Summary at 7-8 (available here). In addition, the parties agreed to add another chemical — perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), its salts, and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride — to Annex B of the convention, subjecting it to restrictions on production and use. While the ultimate goal is the elimination of PFOS, the parties agreed on the need for acceptable purposes and specific exemptions for some uses of PFOS. Acceptable purposes include, inter alia: coatings for semiconductors, photo-imaging, firefighting foam, and insect baits for leaf-cutting ants; and specific exemptions include, inter alia: metal plating, leather and apparel, textiles and upholstery, paper and packaging, and rubber and plastics. Countries must notify the convention secretariat whether or not they intend to continue production for these acceptable purposes or seek specific exemptions.