Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic chemical substances that possess a particular combination of physical and chemical properties, including:

  • Persistence in the environment for long periods of time;
  • Capability for long range transport;
  • Bioaccumulation and concentration within the food chain;
  • Toxicity to humans and wildlife.

Since POPs pose significant threats to human health and the environment, on 22 May 2001, the world’s governments adopted an international treaty - the Öffnet internen Link im aktuellen FensterStockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants - which aimed at restricting and ultimately eliminating their production, use, release and storage.

At the moment, 23 chlorinated, brominated and fluorinated POPs are listed in the Stockholm Convention. The chlorinated POPs are mostly pesticides (e.g. DDT and Endosulfan) and unintentional produced POPs (e.g. Dioxins) formed in the production of organochlorine compounds and in thermal processes. Polychlorinated biphenyls (Öffnet internen Link im aktuellen FensterPCBs) were used in industrial applications such as transformers, capacitors and hydraulic fluids and in open applications such as sealants, paints and cutting oils.

The listed brominated POPs (PBDEs, HBB, HBCD) are Öffnet internen Link im aktuellen Fensterflame retardants used in a wide range of consumer goods including electronics, vehicles, textiles, furniture, mattresses, and in some countries with specific flammability standards such as the United States or the United Kingdom. Furthermore, highly flammable insulation foams in construction, such as polystyrene or polyurethane, are also often flame retarded.

The listed fluorinated POPs are Öffnet internen Link im aktuellen FensterPFOS and PFOS-related chemicals, which are/were used in consumer goods such as outdoor textiles, carpets, stain resistant furniture or grease paper (backing paper, muffin cups, fast food wrapping). Perfluoroctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and related chemicals were/are also used in a wide range of industrial processes (e.g. chromium plating, photo resist and oil drilling), used as insecticides, and used in specific fire-fighting foams. For several applications, PFOS has been substituted with shorter chain per- or polyfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS).

A screening of the approximately 100,000 chemicals in databases has revealed that Öffnet externen Link in neuem Fensterseveral hundred POPs or POP-like chemicals are currently in use belonging mainly to organohalogen compound groups [1]. While the Stockholm Convention has made considerable progresses (e.g. awareness, capacity building, National Implementations Plans), the large amount of POPs-like chemicals still in use and the large POPs stockpiles and legacy wastes signify that a more integrated approach for global POPs management is needed. The Convention process on "Öffnet externen Link in neuem FensterPOPs free" and Öffnet externen Link in neuem Fensteralternatives to POPs is one important approach to move to greener, more Öffnet externen Link in neuem Fenstersustainable chemicals in future.