Highlights and images for 10 September 2020

On the penultimate day of the meeting, the Chemical Review Committee devoted its online session to informal work in a contact group on a decision guidance document for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Once finalized, this document will be sent to the Conference of the Parties to inform its decision about whether to accept the Chemical Review Committee’s recommendation to list this industrial chemical in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention.

The decision guidance document on PFOA was drafted intersessionally with input from both Committee members and observers. Participants at this meeting reviewed the draft text, identifying points that could be improved or clarified. For example, participants discussed the chemical name and synonyms, what substances should explicitly be excluded, and where CAS numbers should be listed in the document.

Participants also grappled with questions about how to reference the listing of PFOA in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, as the scope of that listing is broader than the notifications of final regulatory action submitted to the Rotterdam Convention. Several participants emphasized the importance of explaining why the definitions of PFOA in the two Conventions may differ, with one pointing out that the list of substances included in the Stockholm Convention is indicative and expected to be updated as new information becomes available. This discussion underscores the challenges of taking clear action on groups of industrial chemicals, which may be produced and used in a wide variety of formulations.

While the Chemical Review Committee and observers normally gather in person for their annual meetings, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced participants to quickly adapt to the constraints of collaborating in a virtual setting. The work conducted in the contact group on PFOA demonstrated that the limitations of online meetings – including the lack of casual interaction among participants and opportunities to talk through complex issues face-to-face, as well as technical problems with connections – may be less significant than some had anticipated. Work progressed steadily on Thursday, with both members and observers contributing to the substantive editing of the text. By the conclusion of the session, participants had finalized the draft texts of both the guidance document and the Chemical Review Committee’s decision on PFOA. The Committee will reconvene on Friday to consider adopting these texts and the decision on decaBDE.