Stockholm Convention to take final call on 5 Persistent Organic Pollutants

United Nations Environment Programme’s proposal to list chlorpyrifos as POP was resisted by India

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 29 September 2022
The 18th meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee of the Stockholm Convention is taking place this week in Rome. Photo: UNEP
The 18th meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee of the Stockholm Convention is taking place this week in Rome. Photo: UNEP The 18th meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee of the Stockholm Convention is taking place this week in Rome. Photo: UNEP

The 18th meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) Review Committee (POPRC-18) to the Stockholm Convention has included five more chemicals in its agenda.

Stockholm Convention is an international environmental treaty that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of POPs or the substances that persist in the environment and pose risk to our health.

The listed chemicals include a pesticide, a flame retardant and some plastic stabilising substances.

Three of the listed chemicals — chlorpyrifos, chlorinated paraffin beyond prescribed standards and long-chain perfluoro carboxylic acids — were already nominated at the 17th meeting (POPRC-17) in January this year.

Draft risk profiles of these chemicals are being discussed at the POPRC-18 meeting held in Rome, from 26-30 September, 2022.

Experts will determine if these chemicals are POPs which demand global action due to their adverse effects on human health and the environment.

Their draft risk profiles will be adopted and global action will be warranted if they fall into the hazardous chemicals category.

These chemicals will then be elevated for the third review stage (Annex-F) or risk management evaluation.

Socio-economic considerations associated with possible control measures are evaluated at this stage. Thereafter, they will be considered for recommendation to the Conference of the Parties to list them under the Stockholm Convention. 

Two chemicals — dechlorane plus, a flame retardant and UV-328, a stabiliser used in some personal care products — which qualified for risk management evaluation at POPRC-17 will be evaluated at this session. 

POPRC-18 aims to list each of these chemicals in Annex A (elimination), B (restriction) and/or C (unintended release) of the Stockholm Convention.

India’s resistance

The United Nations Environment Programme’s proposal to list chlorpyrifos as POP was resisted by India. Still, chlorpyrifos got nominated as Persistent organic pollutants.

Ved Prakash Mishra, a member of POPRC, raised doubts on evidence showing adverse effects of chlorpyrifos at POPRC-17.

“Chlorpyrifos is not a carcinogen and its concentrations are low. Some of the studies in the POPRC proposal were not peer reviewed,” he said at POPRC-17. He had also demanded more research into the same.

The Pesticides Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) had obstructed listing chlorpyrifos under the Stockholm Convention.

“Chlorpyrifos in vapour phase is carried to distant locations, is a hypothesis and needs to be proved,” said KN Singh of Gharda Chemicals ltd, on behalf of PMFAI.

India had also opposed the decision to list flame retardant dechlorane plus. Mishra sought more information on the socio-economic implications of global action on it. He cited concerns on behalf of developing countries at POPRC-17.

Chlorpyrifos was registered under the Insecticide Act of 1968 since 1977 and Anupam Verma Committee recommended its review for continued use in 2015.

China and India are among the largest producers of chlorpyrifos. Nearly 48 per cent of chlorpyrifos or 24,000 tonnes was produced in India. Globally, some 50,000 tonnes of chlorpyrifos is being used annually, according to estimates by the China Crop Protection Industry Association.

Nearly 48 per cent of chlorpyrifos, or 24,000 tonnes, was produced in India. Some 11,000 tonnes were used within the country and 12,000 tonnes were exported. Around 1,000 tonnes were kept as stockpiles, estimated PMFAI.

Chlorpyrifos was approved for agricultural use in 2021, which includes its use as a pesticide against pests affecting Bengal gram, rice and cotton.

It is one of the ten pesticides banned by Punjab and Haryana governments in August 2022.

“Chlorpyrifos is approved for 18 crops in India, while it was being used for 23 crops,” claimed Pesticide Action Network, in an August report.

India’s views against the listing of chlorpyrifos may not find much acceptance by the expert committee consisting of 31 experts — from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Stockholm Convention has listed 31 chemicals as of December 2020. This list is likely to expand further amid evidence pointing towards the health burden of hazardous chemicals and pesticides.

Acute pesticide poisoning is an ongoing major global public health challenge, with about 385 million cases of unintentional acute pesticide poisoning and 11,000 deaths every year, according to a global study.

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