An expert panel of the United Nation's Stockholm Convention voted Sept. 30 to put two plastics additives on its list of toxic chemicals that should be eliminated, although it called for phasing them out over time in some applications like automobiles.
The decision by the scientific panel, known as the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee, sets up a decision in May by the full Stockholm Convention on the two additives, dechlorane plus and UV-328. The panel also expressed concerns that plastics recycling could keep the pollutants in the environment.
A statement from the panel
said the two additives are heavily used in plastics, but it also said that some of the uses "require time to be phased out, such as for motor vehicles, industrial machines and in medical devices."
The scientific panel, which is appointed by governments, said its recommendations to the full convention included "time-limited specific exemptions."Read more on our public policy stories here.
Dechlorane plus is a flame retardant and UV-328 is an ultraviolet light stabilizer also used in coatings and personal care products and can enter the environment in other ways, including sewage sludge.
The panel's decision drew a mixed reaction
from the International Pollutants Elimination Network, which praised the listing but criticized the exemptions and said they would harm human health and the environment, including because they will continue to be part of recycled plastics.
"It is great to see that two toxic plastic additives are being recommended for listing," said Therese Karlsson, IPEN science and technical advisor. "This highlights that substantial efforts are urgently needed to phase out toxic chemicals used in plastics. It is however deeply concerning that the committee is recommending that some uses for the two chemicals will be allowed to continue for decades."
IPEN compared the exemptions for continued use in cars, aircraft and other equipment to previous decisions to give broad exemptions for some brominated flame retardants, which it said has led to "widespread and ongoing pollution of recycled plastics."
IPEN said the scientific panel called for separating out waste plastics with the additives so they are not recycled into new products.
A summary of the discussion around UV-328 posted on a UN-linked website said panel members
argued that recycling of plastics with the additive had a high potential of reintroducing it back into the environment.
An aerospace industry group told a meeting of that panel that there were still a few critical uses of the chemical, and said industry was looking for alternatives.
The convention is a global environmental treaty, signed in 2001, that deals with persistent organic pollutants. Governments in the convention will next consider the fate of the two additives at a formal meeting in May known as the conference of the parties.