Key information about the POPs Regulation
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to be restricted worldwide
The Stockholm Convention is an international treaty that aims to protect the environment from the effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These pollutants include 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 through the EU POPs Regulation, which is stricter than the Convention in parts. For example, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts, and other compounds related to PFOA have also been banned in the EU. In addition, brominated diphenyl ethers such as decaBDE have become highly restricted. We’re here to help you comply with all the relevant regulations through our wide range of training and support services that can be tailored to your needs.
POP is the abbreviation for Persistent Organic Pollutant. POPs are carbon-containing organic chemical substances. Due to their special physical and chemical properties, they:
- Do not degrade quickly and remain in the environment for many years;
- Can be found virtually everywhere on our planet due to natural processes (substances that are only used in industrialized countries can even be found in Antarctica);
- 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 May 17, 2004. It is based on the Geneva Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution and its POP protocols, which were enacted in 1998 and entered into force on October 23, 2003. Sixteen persistent substances are covered by this convention.
The Stockholm Convention is a regional treaty negotiated under the auspices of the states belonging to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). This is not the same as the subsequent Stockholm Convention or the POPs Regulation. It is an international treaty that aims to restrict POPs in manufacturing and other applications in order to protect the environment, improve occupational safety, and reduce toxic waste. The agreement has now been signed by over 150 states and ratified by more than 180.
The POPs Regulation initially restricted or banned twelve toxic substances in manufacturing and other applications, which have been coined the “dirty dozen”.
These substances include nine pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene), one group of industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls), and two groups of undesirable by-products (polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans).
Other POPs are now covered by the convention. A complete list of all substances governed by the international convention can be found here.
The pollutants are divided into three categories which include different measures:
Annex A = Elimination
Parties must implement measures to avoid the production and use of the chemicals listed under Annex A. Specific exemptions are listed in the Annex and only apply to parties that have registered for them.
Annex B = Restriction
Parties must implement measures to restrict the production and use of the chemicals in Annex B to acceptable levels and/or in line with specific exemptions listed in the Annex.
Annex C = Unintentional production (by-products)
Parties must implement 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.
Annex D of the POPs Regulation defines the POPs’ properties. The Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (COP), which meets every two years, decides which new substances will be included.
The international convention was implemented through Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 on persistent organic pollutants enacted by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe and the amending Directive 79/117/EEC, which is known as the EU POP Regulation (EU POP VO) for short.
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 extends beyond the international Stockholm Convention in parts. For example, the use and distribution of short-chain chlorinated paraffins have already been banned in the European Union. The European regulation was tightened once again in 2019.
There is a new limit of 10 mg/kg for the flame retardant DecaBDE and other brominated diphenyl ethers. A limit of 500 mg/kg has been applied since then for all BDE compounds. 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.
POPs have been regulated in the automotive industry since at least 2014. Since then, the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) has been on the Stockholm Convention list. Since 2017, the flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE) and short-chain chlorinated paraffins, which are used as plasticizers and flame retardants, also fall under the regulation.
Suppliers must ensure that they know the correct values for each pure substance in the Global Automotive Declarable Substance List (www.gadsl.org). For further details, take a look at the key facts we’ve compiled on the IMDS.