Specialist information on the POP-Regulation

Long-lived organic pollutants (POPs) are to be restricted worldwide

The Stockholm Convention is an international agreement on persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These are, for example, pesticides such as DDT, industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls) and undesirable by-products such as polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans. In the EU, the Stockholm Convention was implemented with the EU POP Regulation, which is in part stricter. For example, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and other PFOA-related compounds were also banned in the EU, and brominated diphenyl ethers such as DecaBDE were severely restricted. Our training and services help you to comply with the applicable regulations.

POP is the abbreviation for Persistent Organic Pollutants. These are organic chemical substances that are carbon-based. They have a special combination of physical and chemical properties so that

when they are released into the environment,
  • remain intact and preserved for many years;
  • are widely distributed in the environment as a result of natural processes (even in Antarctica substances appear that are only used in industrialised countries);
  • accumulate in the fatty tissue of organisms, including humans, and enter the food chain;
  • are toxic to humans and animals.

The “Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants” entered into force on 17 May 2004. It builds on the POP Protocol of the Geneva Convention on Air Pollution, which was adopted in 1998 and entered into force on 23 October 2003 and regulates 16 persistent substances. The Stockholm Convention is a regional agreement of those states that are organised in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, UNECE. It is to be distinguished from the later so-called “Stockholm Convention” or “POP Regulation”. It is an internationally valid agreement to restrict POPs in production and use – for the protection of the environment, for more occupational safety and for a reduction of toxic waste. The agreement has now been signed by over 150 states and ratified by more than 180 countries.

The POPs Regulation initially restricted or banned twelve toxic substances in production as well as in use: the so-called “dirty dozen”.

These include nine pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene), one group of industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls) and two groups of unwanted by-products (polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans).

In the meantime, further POPs to be regulated have been added to the Convention. A complete list of all substances regulated in the international convention can be found here.

The pollutants are divided into three categories with different measures:

Annex A = Elimination

Parties must take measures to eliminate the production and use of the chemicals listed under Annex A. The elimination of these chemicals is not allowed. Specific exemptions are listed in the Annex and apply only to Parties registered for them.

Annex B = Restriction

Parties shall take measures to restrict the production and use of the chemicals in Annex B to acceptable uses and/or specific exemptions listed in the Annex.

Annex C = Incidental production (by-products)

Parties must take measures to reduce the unintentional release of the chemicals listed in Annex C. The aim is to continuously reduce and eliminate the use of the chemicals listed in Annex B. The goal is continuous reduction and, where possible, elimination.

Annex D of the POPs Regulation defines the properties of POPs. The Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention, which meets every two years, decides on the inclusion of new substances.

The international convention was implemented by Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 of the European Parliament and of the Council on persistent organic pollutants and amending Directive 79/117/EEC, in short EU POP Regulation (EU POP VO). The long-term goal of this European regulation – as with the international convention – is to protect the environment and human health. The EU Regulation even goes beyond the international Stockholm Convention in parts. For example, the use and marketing of short-chain chlorinated paraffins has already been banned in the European Union.

In 2019, the European regulation was tightened once again. There is a new limit of 10 mg/kg for the flame retardant DecaBDE and other brominated diphenyl ethers. For mixtures, a limit value of 500 mg/kg has applied since then for all BDEs together.

Since July 2020, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and other PFOA-related compounds have been banned in the European Union (Annex I of EU Regulation 2019/1021). This replaced the previously valid restriction of PFOA under Annex XVII of the European REACH regulation on chemicals.

For the automotive industry, the regulation of so-called POPs has been relevant since 2014 at the latest. Since then, the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) has been on the list of the Stockholm Convention. Since 2017, the flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE) and short-chain chlorinated paraffins, which are used as plasticisers and flame retardants, also fall under the regulation.

Suppliers are obliged to always inform themselves with regard to the correct pure substance-specific values in the Global Automotive Declarable Substance List (www.gadsl.org), see also our information in the IMDS technical information.