The UN Rotterdam Convention’s Chemicals Review Committee on Thursday recommended adding four chemicals – including one widely used in fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags – to its list of pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons.
The 160 parties to the legally-binding, 20-year-old Rotterdam Convention share responsibility and cooperate to safely manage chemicals in international trade.
To date, there are 36 pesticides (including five severely hazardous pesticide formulations) and 15 industrial chemicals listed in the Convention’s Annex III, and subject to trade control measures such as the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure.
Among the four chemicals recommended for listing is the industrial chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds, which is also widely used in domestic non-stick cooking ware and food-processing appliances. It 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
In November, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added PFOA to its Prop 65 list of chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. First published 30 years ago, the list now includes about 900 chemicals.
The other three hazardous chemicals recommended to be listed are:
- The pesticide acetochlor, used for example as a herbicide on maize, known to be highly toxic to aquatic organisms and posing a high risk to birds and non-targeted plants
- The industrial chemical hexabromocyclododecane, 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, and with studies showing poisonings and deaths amongst agricultural workers exposed to this active ingredient
The decision to list these chemicals will be taken up at subsequent meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COPs), the next of which will be held in Geneva from April 29-May 10.