Nations agree to phase out toxic chemical HBCD

May 10, 2013
Car seats are displayed in the 'tailor-made' department on December 5, 2012 in Italy. Governments have agreed to phase out the use of the toxic chemical HBCD, and restrict trade in four other dangerous substances, the head of the UN's anti-pollution division said Friday.

Governments have agreed to phase out the use of the toxic chemical HBCD, and restrict trade in four other dangerous substances, the head of the UN's anti-pollution division said Friday.

"Adding these chemicals to the list is a good thing, because they are known to be quite bad chemicals," Jim Willis, executive secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, told reporters as a two-week international conference wrapped up in Geneva.

The conference agreed to ban the production and use of HBCD from next year, albeit with a five-year grace period for its use as a flame-retardant in polystyrene building insulation.

HBCD, or hexabromocyclododecane, is also used in interior textile fittings for vehicles as well as . It is considered a "persistent organic pollutant"—chemicals which linger in the environment, enter the food chain and thereby pose risks to human health and nature.

Health campaigners say that among its ills is that it undermines the ability of children to learn and grow because it can harm and .

Such chemicals are overseen by the Stockholm Convention, finalised in the Swedish capital in 2001 and which to date has drawn in 179 nations.

A separate accord, the 1998 Rotterdam Convention, restricts trade in chemicals by obliging exporters to ensure that destination countries have been fully informed about the risks involved and have given an explicit green light for imports.

A total of 152 nations have signed up to that accord, and the parties agreed to add four chemicals to its list: the insecticide azinphos-methyl; perfluorooctanesulfonates, which can be used as water repellents; and two forms of flame-retardant, pentabromodiphenyl ether and octabromodiphenyl ether.

Delegates failed, however, to slap similar trade restrictions on the pesticide paraquat, in the face of resistance piloted by India.

In addition, they were unable to reach a consensus on adding chrysotile asbestos—which health experts say causes cancer—to the list.

Past efforts to do so were long stymied by Canada, a major producer until the government withdrew support to the industry last year.

With Ottawa taking a back seat, the baton was picked up by Zimbabwe and Russia, the globe's top asbestos producer.

Unlike the 180-nation Basel Convention of 1989, which governs exports of toxic waste notably from rich to poor countries, the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions lack compliance mechanisms and have to rely on countries honouring their pledges.

Explore further: German scientist starts four-week swim down Rhine river

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UN: Treaty expanded by 9 more dangerous chemicals

May 09, 2009

(AP) -- A U.N.-sponsored treaty to combat highly dangerous chemicals has been expanded beyond the original "dirty dozen" to include nine more substances that are used in pesticides, flame retardants and other products, U.N. ...

Preserving the health of the Arctic

May 03, 2013

Lars-Otto Reiersen is a marine biologist by training, now working as an environmental scientist in Norway. He has led the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) for over two decades. AMAP advises the governments of ...

Recommended for you

Malaysia air quality 'unhealthy' as haze obscures skies

3 hours ago

Air quality around Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur and on Borneo island was "unhealthy" on Tuesday, with one town reaching "very unhealthy" levels as haze—mostly from forest fires in Indonesia—obscured skies.

Worldwide water shortage by 2040

3 hours ago

Two new reports that focus on the global electricity water nexus have just been published. Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population ...

User comments : 0