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This page was updated on: 01/13/10



Chemicals Management Media Reports Archives: 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2002





The Rotterdam Convention on the prior informed consent procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade will enter into force on 24 February 2004. On 24 November, Armenia became the 50th State to ratify the Convention, triggering its entry into force. The Convention, adopted in 1998, is designed around information exchange on chemicals trade, and aims to give countries that import hazardous chemicals the tools and information they need to identify potential hazards and exclude chemicals they cannot manage safely. If a country agrees to import chemicals, the Convention promotes their safe use through labeling standards, technical assistance, and other forms of support. It also ensures that exporters comply with these requirements. The first meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Rotterdam Convention will be held in September 2004 in Geneva.


Links to further information

Rotterdam Convention website





On 29 October, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a new EU regulatory framework for chemicals. Under the proposed new system called REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals), enterprises that manufacture or import more than one tonne of a chemical substance per year would be required to register it in a central database. In September, the proposal had been revised to address concerns raised by industry and some member states that the program would be too costly. The final proposal reflects these changes. The proposal will now be forwarded to the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers for adoption.


Links to further information

European Commission Reach Proposal


The Århus protocol on heavy metals to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution will enter into force on 29 December, 90 days following the deposit of the 16th instrument of ratification by Germany on 30 September. Adopted on 29 June 1998 in Århus, Denmark, the protocol focuses on three heavy metals: cadmium, lead, and mercury. The protocol regulates industrial and other sources of heavy metal pollution (coal combustion in power stations and heating plants, iron and steel industry, non-ferrous metal industry, refuse incineration and chlorine production, as well as heavy metals in products). It requires the application of best available techniques (BAT) to control heavy metal pollution, and requires the phase-out of leaded petrol.


The 16 Parties to the Protocol are: Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and the European Community. The first meeting of the parties to the heavy metals protocol will be held in December 2004 during the Convention's Executive Body session.


Links to further information

UNECE Heavy Metals Protocol

UNECE press release, 7 October 2003





Responding to concerns from industry as well as some governments, the European Commission has released a revised version of its REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) proposal for a new EU chemicals policy. In late September, the leaders of three EU states – Germany's Gerhard Schröder, France's Jacques Chirac and the UK's Tony Blair – had argued in a letter to Commission President Romano Prodi that the REACH plans were too bureaucratic and inefficient. In the new draft, REACH would no longer apply to polymers, and some reporting requirements for industry have been lessened, especially for substances produced in quantities of less than 10 tons. The Commission hopes to agree to a formal legislative proposal on REACH before the end of October.


Links to further information

ENS News, 28 September 2003

ENDS Daily, 24 September 2003

European Commission REACH proposal



Sockeye salmon carry significant quantities of PCBs from the Pacific Ocean back to their spawning grounds in Alaskan lakes, according to a new study published in a recent issue of Nature. The research analyzed PCB concentrations in sediment cores from eight different lakes as well as in salmon, and found that the accumulation of PCBs in lake sediment correlated strongly with the density of salmon returning there. One million salmon could potentially carry more than 0.16 kg of PCBs – similar to the amount released annually from hazardous waste incinerators. In the lakes measured, the amount of PCBs transported by salmon is greater than the amount transported by the atmosphere.


Links to further information

"Spawning Salmon Haul Toxins to Alaska Lakes, Experts Find," New York Times, 23 September 2003

"Delivery of pollutants by spawning salmon," Nature, 18 September 2003


The Bush Administration has expressed strong opposition to the proposed EU chemical testing programme, and has joined chemical companies and trade groups including Dow Chemical Co., Rohm & Haas Co., Lyondell Chemical Co., and the American Chemistry Council in campaigning aggressively against the legislation. The Bush Administration views the proposed EU testing programme as too costly, burdensome, and complex for US exporters. According to information obtained by environmental NGOs, the Administration has directed diplomats in EU member states to lobby against the proposal, along with the State and Commerce Departments, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the office of the US Trade Representative.


The EU's testing proposal, called "Reach" (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals), would require manufacturers to test chemicals on the market for potential health and environmental hazards by 2012. Currently, 86% of high production volume chemicals on the European market do not have sufficient testing available for a basic risk assessment. The EU Commission estimates the costs of screening to be between €1.4 billion and €7.8 billion over the next 11 years as the proposal is phased in. Benefits are estimated at €18-54 billion. US producers, who currently export more than $20 billion in chemicals to Europe annually, would have to comply with the regulation if they continue to export to Europe.


Links to further information

REACH legislation

"U.S. Opposes EU Effort to Test Chemicals for Health Hazards," Wall Street Journal, 9 September 2003,,SB106306594450697900,00.html (subscription required).

"Public Availability of Data on EU High Production Volume Chemicals," European Commission, Joint Research Centre




The U.S. State of California will ban brominated flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) beginning in 2008. California is the first U.S. state to take action on such substances. Earlier this year, the European Union passed legislation that will ban certain PBDEs by 2006.


Brominated flame retardants are used extensively in electronic products such as computers and TV sets to prevent fires. Two forms, PentaBDE and OctaBDE, have been shown to accumulate in animal and human tissue and in mother's milk. Both the California and European Union legislation apply to these two forms of PBDEs, but exempt another form, deca-BDE, for which fewer data is available. PBDEs have been shown to disrupt functioning of the human thyroid gland and may adversely affect brain development in children. A 1998 study reported that concentrations of PBDEs in the breast milk of Swedish women had increased 40-fold over the past 25 years. Another more recent study identified exponential increases in concentrations of PBDEs bioaccumulating in Canadian Arctic seals from 1981 to 2000. According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, levels of PBDEs in the breast milk of North American women is the highest recorded – 10- to 40-fold higher than levels in European women – and are approaching levels found to adversely affect learning, memory and behavior in laboratory mice.

Links to further information

California Governor's Office press release, 9 August 2003

Recent European Union action on PBDEs


The Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) will enter into force on 23 October 2003, becoming the sixth protocol to take effect under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. France, whose ratification triggered the entry into force, joins Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland as a party to the Protocol, which was first adopted on 24 June 1998 in Aarhus, Denmark. The Parties plan to meet for the first time in December 2003 in Geneva to possibly discuss and initiate work on a review of some of the provisions of the Protocol, and to consider the addition of other substances to the list currently covered by the Protocol.


The Protocol, whose objective is to eliminate any discharges, emissions and losses of POPs, focuses on 16 substances – eleven pesticides, two industrial chemicals and three by-products – that have been singled out according to agreed risk criteria. The Protocol bans the production and use of some products, schedules some products for elimination at a later stage, and severely restricts the use of DDT, HCH, and PCBs. It includes provisions for dealing with the wastes of products that will be banned, and obliges Parties to reduce their emissions of dioxins, furans, PAHs and HCB below a certain baseline level.


Links to further information

UNECE press release, 5 August 2003


JULY 2003


A recent meeting of the Joint Expert Committee for Food Additives and Contaminants (JECFA), an initiative of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, has called for a tougher standard for levels of mercury in food. The meeting of the committee, which comprised 48 scientists from 17 countries, said that the revised standard, which is nearly twice as strict as the existing world health exposure standard, is required due to growing evidence of health risks from mercury to pregnant women and children. The experts re-evaluated previous JECFA risk assessments for methylmercury and recommended that the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake be cut to 1.6 micrograms per kilogram of bodyweight - nearly half the original standard of 3.3 micrograms per kilogram.

The recommendations for tighter mercury standards comes a few months after the UNEP Governing Council determined that there were sufficient adverse effects from global mercury pollution to warrant international action.


Links to further information

Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) website

Summary report of the latest JECFA meeting



Data recently published by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that US industries released 15 percent fewer toxic chemicals, and generated 22 percent less toxic waste, in 2001 as compared with 2000. The EPA says these figures, based on data that was collected under the framework of the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), illustrate a continuing decline in the volume of wastes released into the atmosphere, land and water. The data collected under the TRI programme are based on reports from manufacturing industries, metal mines, certain coal mining activities, electrical utilities, hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities, chemical wholesale distributors, petroleum bulk plants and terminals and solvent recovery services. It does not include releases from pollution sources like oil wells, airports and waste incinerators, or other sources of exposure to chemicals, such as chemicals placed in consumer products.


Despite this general decrease, mercury is one toxic substance that has increased from 2000 to 2001. The EPA reported that 4.9 million pounds of mercury and mercury compounds were released into the environment and 5.8 million pounds of mercury contaminated wastes were managed in 2001, compared to 4.3 million pounds released and 4.9 million pounds managed in 2000.


Links to further information

EPA TRI database



A recently conducted survey by the UK Food Standards Agency survey has found that the total amount of dioxins in all food has fallen in the UK since 1997. The study, which examined samples from each of 19 food groups, using food bought from 24 different locations around the UK, showed that the average intake of dioxins by adults has halved between 1997 and 2001. The percentage of adults exceeding the new UK safety limit from their diets fell from 35% to 1.1% in the same period, while the percentage of children who exceeded the safety limit fell from 62% in 1997 to 10% in 2001.


Dioxins are formed as unwanted by-products of combustion processes in a variety of industrial processes, such as waste incineration, and household fires, bonfires and cigarette smoke. These environmental pollutants tend to accumulate particularly in food containing fat, such as milk, meat, fish and eggs. The decline is seen to be as a result of strict controls on industrial pollutants that came into effect in 1992, resulting in a 70% reduction in the amount of dioxins and PCBs released into the environment over the past ten years. The concentrations of dioxins found in individual food groups in the 2001 study were all below EU regulatory limits.


Links to further information

UK Food Standards Agency press release, 18 July 2003 



A new report from Friends of the Earth and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK released on 21 July, criticizes the UK Government for failing to grasp a golden opportunity to find safer alternatives to chemical pesticides, leaving farmers with little alternative to the toxic products currently in use. The report, Breaking the Pesticide Chain, is being published to coincide with the withdrawal from the market of 320 pesticide products across the EU this week. In the UK 45 pesticides will be banned. While Friends of the Earth has welcomed the ban, they argue that that the review has failed consumers and farmers by not going far enough. The report argues that some pesticides that have known risks to human health have been given approval for continued use across the EU, and that some pesticides earmarked for withdrawal for environmental or health reasons have been given "essential use" status and thus can continue to be used until 2007. The report suggests furthermore that not enough has been done to support farmers and growers to find safer alternatives, and warns that UK farmers may be at a disadvantage compared to farmers in neighboring countries as the UK Government has not ensured that alternative means of pest management are available. Friends of the Earth and PAN UK are calling for a "shake-up" of the pesticides approvals process to help safer alternatives reach the market, a significant increase in government-funded research into alternatives, and a free independent advice service to farmers about pesticide reduction, to be funded by a tax on pesticide products.


Links to further information

PAN press release, 21 July 2003

Breaking the Pesticide Chain 


JUNE 2003


The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched an initiative aimed at improving coordinated intelligence gathering, information exchange and cooperation among the various agencies that are involved in combating the multi-billion dollar illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances, toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes and endangered species. On 2 June 2003, UNEP and the World Customs Organisation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the main purpose of which is to foster stronger ties between the two organizations on environmental enforcement issues.


Coinciding with this agreement, UNEP launched their new "Green Customs" website, aimed at building the capacity of border guards to better spot and apprehend criminals trafficking in "environmental commodities." The project, for which no specific budget has yet been allocated, is to be run in cooperation with the World Customs Organisation, Interpol (the international criminal police organization), CITES, the Basel Convention, UNEP's OzonAction Programme, the Ozone Secretariat, and the UNEP Division of Environmental Policy Implementation. Although many of the partners are already collaborating on training and information exchange, a key objective of the Green Customs project is to harmonize efforts amongst the various actors, particularly the multilateral environmental agreements, so that customs officers can receive training that covers all relevant environmental agreements.


Links to further information

UNEP's Green Customs website



Stakeholders have until 10 July 2003 to comment on the draft overhaul of EU chemicals legislation contained in the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restrictions of Chemicals (REACH).


Due to the wide-ranging nature of the proposal, contributors have been invited to structure their responses according to the topics that have been prepared, using the Interactive Policy-Making Tool for brief comments. Interested parties with more extensive comments have been requested to make use of the downloadable response template. The delay in posting the template was caused by disagreements between the environment and enterprise directorates over its format, in particular the scope it should give for correspondents to raise other grievances about the package.


Links to further information

The REACH Consultation Guide

Questions and/or comments on the proposal should be addressed to Reinhard Schulte-Braucks, European Commission, Enterprise Directorate General; e-mail:


Danish Environment Minister Hans Christian Schmidt has announced far-reaching restrictions on glyphosate, Europe's most widely used herbicide, sparking a row with manufacturers. The restrictions have been imposed following publication of data that indicate the chemical's presence in groundwater, from which Denmark obtains most of its drinking water. In terms of the restrictions, autumn spraying of the herbicide will be banned from 15 September 2003 on those sites "where leaching is extensive because of heavy rain." Provision has been made for various exceptions to the restrictions, which are subject to revision after an interim consultation period.


Three firms involved in the manufacture of sale of glyphosate – Cheminova, Syngenta and Monsanto – have issued a joint response condemning the proposal as "unacceptable" for the producers and for Danish farmers. This row comes as the European Commission begins preparations for developing proposals on sustainable pesticides use. The Commission is due to issue firm proposals for a strategy next year, with some European NGOs and Members of European Parliament campaigning for a halving in pesticide usage over a ten year period.


Links to further information

Danish Environmental Protection Agency

Tel: +45-32-660-100


Danish Environmental Protection Agency press release (in Danish), 4 June 2003


MAY 2003



The European Commission has introduced what many observers describe as "radical" new proposals to managing chemicals. These proposals are aimed at minimising human health and environmental impacts of the more than 30,000 chemicals that are produced, imported or used in Europe. A central feature of this proposed legislation, which has been under discussion since February 2001, is the introduction of a single, integrated system for the Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (known as "REACH"). In terms of the REACH proposals, a duty will be placed on all companies that produce, import and use chemicals to assess the risks arising from their use. In certain instances new test data will need to be generated. Necessary measures will then need to be taken to manage any risks that are identified. Core to this system is the reversal of the burden of proof from public authorities to industry for putting safe chemicals on the market.


While campaigners have supported the move as a means of addressing growing health concerns, chemicals manufacturers have argued that the proposals are unduly bureaucratic, and that they could threaten over 1.5 million jobs. The impact of the legislation is not limited only to companies based in the EU, as it will also apply to goods imported into the EU. The European Commission estimates that the new measure will cost up to seven billion euros ($7.94bn) and take at least 10 years to implement. The bill requires approval by a majority of EU governments and the European Parliament.


Links to further information

The text of the proposals is available at:


APRIL 2003



A study, published in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, contends that even low levels of lead exposure may have an impact on the intelligence of children, and suggests that current guidelines on exposure levels are probably not sufficiently tough. The report suggests that children with far less lead in their blood than is allowed by current guidelines have evidence of impaired intelligence, and that much of the damage appears to occur at very low levels of exposure. Much of this lead exposure is seen to come from deteriorating lead paint in older homes. This evidence comes amidst recent international calls on governments to act in cooperation with the private sector on the phase-out of leaded gasoline and lead-based paints.


Links to further information

New England Journal of Medicine, 17 April 2003


MARCH 2003


The UN Economic Commission for Europe has launched a new compliance mechanism aimed at underpinning public participation in environmental decision-making under the Århus Convention. The goal of the mechanism is to enable the public and non-governmental organisations to challenge those governments that they believe are failing to fulfil their obligations under the Convention. A key feature of the new mechanism is a "Compliance Commission," which met for the first time in late March. From 23 October 2003, members of the public will be able to submit details of alleged cases of non-compliance directly to this body. The Commission has no regulatory power. In the first instance it is limited to making recommendations to the country involved, while in extreme cases it may make recommendations to the Convention's meeting of the Parties, which may decide whether to take further action against a non-compliant state, for example by issuing a caution or declaration.


Links to further information

UNECE press release, 20 March 2003

Århus Convention Compliance Committee website



A committee of government appointed experts has recommended that the list of chemicals regulated under the Rotterdam Convention be expanded to include all forms of asbestos, three pesticides and two forms of lead. These recommendations, which were made after a weeklong meeting of the committee in Rome, Italy, in early March will be reviewed at the meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the Rotterdam Convention, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17-21 November 2003. If approved, these chemicals will become subject to the prior informed consent procedure of the Convention.


The proposed new pesticides to be included in the PIC list are: DNOC, an insecticide, weedkiller and fungicide that has been banned in Peru and the EU; the pesticide parathion that has been banned in the EU and Australia; and a pesticide formulation containing the fungicides benomyl and thiram, and the highly toxic insecticiden carbofuran, that has reportedly resulted in illnesses and deaths in Senegal. The two forms of lead that have been proposed for inclusion in the list are tetraethyl and tetramethyl, both of which are used as additives in petrol. The experts have called for the "rapid global phase out" of these lead compounds by 2005, adding to similar recent proposals on lead that were made at the recent meeting of the UNEP Governing Council. The expert committee also recommended that all the forms of asbestos not currently covered by the interim PIC process should be placed on the list, including actinolite, anthophyllite, amosite, tremolite and chrysotile.


Links to further information

Interim Secretariat for the Rotterdam Convention, UNEP Chemicals Unit

Tel: +41-22-917-8183

Fax: +41-22-797-3460




A European Union Regulation with the aim of implementing the Rotterdam Convention has recently entered into force. Formally known as the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure relating to certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade, the Convention was formally approved by the EU through a Council Decision on 19 December 2002. The new EU Regulation will promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts in the international movement of hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm. The content of the regulation was agreed politically last year, after a decision by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to switch its legal base from the trade to the environment articles of the EU treaty.


Links to further information

EU Regulation concerning the export and import of dangerous chemicals, 6 March 2003

Council Decision concerning approval of the Rotterdam Convention, 19 December 2002



The plans of the European Union to outlaw a worm-killing pesticide used on sugar beet and root vegetables have been shelved for several weeks, while member states resolve their differences over the safety of the pesticide. The pesticide, Aldicarb, rated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the most acutely toxic pesticides still in use, had been included on the agenda of the next meeting of EU agricultural ministers for proposed removal from EU markets. The agenda item was removed at the last minute by Greece, the current EU president, following concern that the proposal might not secure sufficient support under the EU's weighted voting system. Decision on this issue has apparently been postponed to the end of March to allow EU diplomats greater opportunity to reach a compromise, with some member states insisting that the dangers posed by Aldicarb may have been exaggerated. If the ministers agree to remove Aldicarb from the EU-wide list of authorised pesticides, it would first be withdrawn from sale, followed by a period when it could still be used by farmers, and then a period when it would be illegal to store it.


Links to further information

Directorate-General for the Environment, European Commission

Fax: +32-2-299-6198






Negotiations on a new legally binding instrument on civil liability and compensation for damage to transboundary waters caused by industrial accidents involving hazardous substances have been successfully concluded. Developed under the auspices of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the protocol arose subsequently after the accident in Baia Mare, Romania, where 100,000 tons of wastewater containing highly toxic pollutants spilled into the Tisza and Danube Rivers. The finalized protocol provides individuals impacted by transboundary effects of industrial accidents a legal claim to compensation and holds operators of industrial installations liable for damage, with the aim of encouraging operators to minimize risk and prevent damage that they will be liable for. Involving the UNECE member countries, industry, the insurance sector, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, the inclusive negotiation process took three years to complete. The protocol is expected to be formally adopted at the Ministerial 'Environment for Europe' Conference in Kiev, scheduled for 21-23 May 2003.


Link to further information

UNECE press release, 28 February 2003





The South African Government, in collaboration with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), hosted a workshop in South Africa from 27-31 January 2003, to launch the National Implementation Plan (NIPs) of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the Africa Stockpile Programme. At the opening of the workshop, South African Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Rejoice Mabudafhasi noted that South Africa is one of the first of the 14 African countries that have been nominated for the first phase of the obsolete pesticides clean up and disposal operation, to launch their National Implementation Plan.


Links to further information

South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism news, 27 January 2003 



Negotiations on a new international treaty, regarding which industrial facilities will be required to record and publicly disclose information on their emissions of up to 86 different pollutants, were concluded successfully in Geneva, Switzerland, on 30 January 2003. The treaty requires Parties to establish a publicly accessible Pollutant Release and Transfer Register based on annual reporting of 86 pollutants, including greenhouse gases, heavy metals, acid rain pollutants, and certain carcinogens such as dioxins. Industries that are required to report include, amongst others, power stations, the chemical and mining industry, waste management facilities, wood and paper producers, and intensive agriculture. Although the treaty has been developed under the auspices of the United Nations Commission for Europe (UNECE), in the form of a legally binding protocol to the Ǻarhus Convention, it will be open to accession by any State that is a member of the United Nations. The Protocol will be formally adopted and signed at the Fifth Ministerial "Environment for Europe" Conference in Kiev, Ukraine, in May 2003. More than 30 states from Europe, Central Asia and North America took part in the negotiations, excluding the United States who pulled out of the process last year.


Links to further information

UNECE Environment and Human Settlements Division, Geneva

Tel: +41-22-917-1234





A recent trial conducted in Denmark, by agricultural consultancy LandBoCentrum, has concluded that the cost to Danish farmers of phasing out the use of all pesticides would be twice as high as previously calculated. The study also identified a number of potential environmental drawbacks.

The Danish government, which has been considering a ban on pesticides since the late 1990s, established a scientific panel to examine the environmental and socio-economic consequences of eco-friendly and organic farming policies. This government panel estimated the cost of a pesticide ban at DKr2.5bn (€336m). At about the same time that the panel commenced work, the LandBoCentrum initiated a series of its own practical field trials using organic techniques. Their findings have doubled the estimated costs, and have also suggested that the ban would increase energy consumption and nitrogen releases.


Links to further information

LandBo Centrum

Telephone: +45-5756-1700



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