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EU/UN/CHEMICALS : EU WANTS EXEMPTION FROM BAN ON TOXIC PRODUCT.

The European Union is pushing for an exemption from the global phase-out of hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), a chemical substance classified as PBT (persistent, bioaccumulable and toxic). Its move angers European environmental organisations, which have asked the EU and its member states to abandon their proposal and to shoulder their global responsibilities.

The question is being discussed in the context of the Sixth Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention (COP-6). This chemical substance was also at the heart of international concerns, from 28 April to 11 May, because in parallel with the meeting of parties to the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POP) were also being held the annual meetings of parties to the Rotterdam Convention (movements of chemical substances) and the Basel Convention (movements of hazardous waste). The week will end with a joint session of the parties to all three conventions.

HBCD is a brominated flame retardant widely used in building insulation, upholstery and electronics. It can disrupt the hormone system and has potential harmful effects on the development of the nervous system and mental abilities of children.

The POP convention expert committee has recommended its global phase-out but the EU proposed exemptions allowing the use of this highly toxic substance in insulation materials for buildings and the recycling of such material until 2024. The half-life of this substance is around 50 years, so such an exemption would technical extend the presence of this chemical in the economy and the environment for more than a century.

HBCD is a substance of very high concern (VHC) under Europe's REACH regulation (management of chemicals). Its use is severely limited and is set to be banned in the EU soon. The exemption requested is therefore for uses of the substance in developing countries that do not have environmentally safe waste handling capacities. "This is a flagrant violation of Stockholm Convention rules and EU regulations," rails a consortium of NGOs(1). "As EU environmental NGOs we find it shameful to see that the EU is violating the integrity of the Stockholm Convention, and putting economic interests before human health and the environment," says Alexandra Caterbow (WECF). Buonsante Vito (ClientEarth) launches a similar accusation: "The EU is making a mockery of the convention and of its own rules by suggesting that HBCD could be recycled despite a clear prohibition from the convention and the EU implementing regulation on the recovery and recycling of persistent organic pollutants".

(1) Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), ClientEarth, Swedidish Society for Nature Conservation, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), IPEN-A Toxic Free Future

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Publication:Europe Environment
Geographic Code:4EUSW
Date:May 15, 2013
Words:431
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