by IISD’s SDG Knowledge Hub ,

The 16th meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Review Committee (POPRC-16) to the Stockholm Convention focused on three potential POPs for listing and technical work related to implementation of past recommendations.

The three potential POPs reviewed for listing under the Convention are: methoxychlor, a pesticide; Dechlorane Plus, a flame retardant; and UV-328, a plastic stabilizer. Participants raised questions regarding the ways in which the POPRC should address newer chemicals that have not been fully examined, such as Dechlorane Plus and UV-328, and when and whether to employ a precautionary approach.

During the initial review stage for adding chemicals to the Convention list, the POPRC is required to determine whether a substance meets the screening criteria, which are laid out in Convention Annex D: persistence, bioaccumulation, adverse effects, and potential for long-range environmental transport. Switzerland proposed listing UV-328 for elimination, highlighting that plastic debris containing this POP are spreading around the globe, amounting to a potential mechanism for long-range transport. The Committee agreed that the proposal meets the screening criteria, and to move to the next review stage, which requires a draft risk profile. 

However, many participants expressed concern that listing UV-328 for elimination could lead to calls for classifying any plasticizer or substance that adsorbs to plastic as a POP. Thus, the Committee decided to establish an intersessional working group to develop guidance on applying the long-range environmental transport criterion, which will focus on links between POPs and plastic pollution.

On Dechlorane Plus, which is at the second review stage, the Committee failed to reach agreement on whether the draft risk profile presents sufficient evidence of adverse effects, despite the consensus that the information is conclusive regarding the POP's persistence, bioaccumulation, and the potential for long-range environmental transport. Some supported collecting additional data, while others recommended that the Committee use a "weight of evidence" approach to determine whether global action is justified. Thus, the Committee deferred its decision on the draft risk profile to POPRC-17 (tentatively scheduled to convene in September 2021), and established an intersessional working group on Dechlorane Plus to review and update the draft risk profile. 

On methoxychlor, the Committee adopted the risk profile and moved the POP to the next review stage, which requires a risk management evaluation, including an analysis of possible control measures. An intersessional working group was established for this purpose.

POPRC-16 also addressed efforts to eliminate several substances already listed in the Stockholm Convention. It completed a review of information related to specific exemptions for decabromodiphenyl ether and short-chain chlorinated paraffins, and decided to submit reports on these reviews to the tenth meeting of the Stockholm Convention Conference of the Parties (COP-10) for consideration. COP-10 is scheduled to meet in July 2021.

Regarding the draft indicative list of substances covered by the listing of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts, and PFOA-related compounds, the Committee established a process for submitting comments on the list, and requested the Secretariat to prepare a revised draft list.

POPRC-16 also commented on the draft report for the evaluation and review of brominated diphenyl ethers, and the report is expected to be considered during COP-10. 

Originally scheduled for September 2020, POPRC-16 met virtually from 11-16 January 2021 instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

POPRC-17 is tentatively scheduled to meet face-to-face from 27 September to 1 October 2021 in Rome, Italy, although that could change depending on developments with the pandemic and vaccinations. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of POPRC-16] [POPRC-16 website]