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Wood-PFA report on POP criteria attracts attention

May 2nd, 2019

In collaboration with Wood plc, last year PFA produced a report under contract for the European Commission on whether substances that are mobile in the aquatic environment could meet criteria for being persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Annex D of the Stockholm convention focusses on highly bioaccumulative substances. The competent authority of Germany (UBA) has put forward criteria for ‘persistent, mobile and toxic’ (PMT) substances. Could these also apply as new criteria for POPs?

The Commission has put forward the PFA report as an EU contribution to discussions around regulatory development on POPs. The report is has been widely reviewed including in a recent article in Chemical Watch (CW).

It is important to note that our science-based report advocates a very different approach to the UBA proposals. The criteria are different, and our methodology emphasises environmental modelling tools to understand fate and behaviour, rather than ‘hard line’ numerical criteria on which to base regulatory decisions.

The UBA approach has generated much concern from industry due to the large number of PMT candidates that could arise, as reported by CW. Regarding possible POPs, our proposals in the Commission report succeed in the identification of substances already known to be of concern but which fall outside the current Annex D criteria. Assessment of mobility based concerns requires understanding of the actual modes of transport and the interaction of the various partitioning and degradation processes that may occur, and needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis by using in-depth modelling. The number of substances likely to be new POP candidates would probably be few (which CW did not report fully).

This work is a great example of our ability to apply good science in a regulatory framework.