Rome, Italy — A UN expert committee has determined that PFOA, commonly known as the “Teflon chemical,” warrants global action under the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty that bans the world’s most hazardous chemical pollutants.
In a consensus decision, the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) agreed that PFOA “is presumed to be an immune hazard to humans” and linked to, “high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.” Experts concluded that PFOA does not degrade in the environment, is transported over long distances, and biomagnifies in animals, threatening the food chain. As a result, the expert group, noting a recent study concluded that, “a ‘safe’ concentration in the environment cannot be established.”
This week in Rome, the Stockholm Convention POPs Review Committee is considering its final recommendations to governments about listing flame retardant, DecaBDE, in the Stockholm Convention for global elimination. The auto and aerospace industries have pressured the Committee to exempt certain uses of DecaBDE. In addition, the UK government has pushed for sweeping exemptions for uses in military vehicles and airplanes.
Surprisingly, an IPEN examination of submissions to the Committee revealed that the UK government submitted virtually identical comments as the UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space industry association (ADS). For example, the UK and ADS submissions identically claim that the, “cost and time required to re-certify a change of flame retardant is substantial and we believe presents a disproportionate impact on our industry.”
IPEN Science and Technical Advisor, Joe DiGangi, said that, “Promoting industry lobbyist comments as a government submission is a clear conflict of interest, disrespectful to the UK public, and completely undermines the credibility of the government.”
IPEN, currently in Rome for the 12th meeting of the Stockholm Convention's POPs Review Committee (POPRC), today made an intervention on PFOA in plenary. The intervention, delivered by IPEN Senior Advisor Dr. Mariann Lloyd-Smith, described how PFOA's toxicity has for years made it an appalling threat to the health of communities all over the world, and reminded participants of the Committee meeting that the industry has known since at least 1961 that PFOA is toxic. PFOA contamination is linked to ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, thyroid disease, testicular cancer and kidney cancer.
IPEN Participating Organization Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand (EARTH), along with Chulalongkorn University, National Health Commission Office of Thailand, Kumamoto Gakuen University, and Collaboration Center for Minamata Disease Victims, organized a program and public conference from 9th-12th September, 2016 in Thailand. The program aimed to discuss lessons learned from the Minamata industrial disaster and how to apply those lessons for a sustainable society and environment.
Tanzania Bureau of Standards’ Acting Director General, Engineer Edna Ndumbaro, has announced that Tanzania plans, over the next four years, to remove all paints with lead substances from the market.
In addition, government representatives from Kenya and Tanzania have agreed to work to revise the lead limit of the current East African Community (EAC) standards on various types of paint to 90 ppm total lead.
In preparation for the 12th meeting of the Stockholm Convention's POPs Review Committee (POPRC), which will take place 19 – 23 September in Rome, IPEN has developed a Quick Guide to IPEN Views on POPRC12 (English and français). This document highlights IPEN's views on issues that the Committee will tackle at the meeting, including formal recommendations for listing two chemicals in the treaty: DecaBDE (flame retardant widely present in e-waste) and short-chained chlorinated paraffins (used in metalworking, and as flame retardants in PVC consumer products).
IPEN has joined numerous other environmental and health organizations in sending a letter to European government representatives relating to a draft regulation that it will soon present to the REACH Committee about the restriction of PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related substances.
PFOA is classified as toxic for reproduction (category 1B), affects cholesterol levels and may cause cancer in humans. A recent published study from the C8 Health Project survey showed a dose-related increase in both kidney and testicular cancer with PFOA among 32,254 participants. It is so persistent, that there are no measurable environmental half-lives.