Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic compounds that are toxic and are not readily degradable. They can build up in the bodies of humans and animals. Once released, they can spread around the globe via air or water or through the food chain, and thus have a toxic effect on people and the environment far from the place where they were released. They can also disrupt the reproductive process, give rise to hormonal disorders or cause cancer.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants aims to minimise the release of such substances into the environment. The Convention was ratified by Switzerland on 30 July 2003 and entered into force on 17 May 2004.

In particular, it contains the following obligations:

1. Bans and restrictions on the manufacture and use of the following commercial products (pesticides and/or industrial chemicals):

Annex A: Elimination

  • Aldrin
  • Alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Beta-hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Chlordane
  • Chlordecone
  • Decabromodiphenylether
  • Dicofol
  • Dieldrin
  • Endrin
  • Endosulfan
  • Heptachlor
  • Hexabromobiphenyl
  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)
  • Hexabromodiphenylether and heptabromodiphenylether
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Hexachlorobutadiene
  • Lindane
  • Mirex
  • Pentachlorobenzene
  • Pentachlorophenol, its salts and esters
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Polychlorinated naphthalenes
  • Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs)
  • Tetrabromodiphenylether and pentabromodiphenylether
  • Toxaphene

Annex B: Restriction

  • DDT
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride

In Switzerland the manufacture, placing on the market, import and use of these substances are either banned or - as is the case for PFOS - subject to stringent restrictions. The bans and restrictions are regulated in the Ordinance on Chemical Risk Reduction (ORRChem).

2. The unintentional production of the following substances, which for example may occur and be released in the course of incineration processes, should be minimised or eliminated wherever possible:

  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Hexachlorobutadiene
  • Pentachlorobenzene
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs)
  • Polychlorinated naphthalenes

3. The Stockholm Convention specifies criteria and procedures according to which additional substances may be included in the Annexes to the Convention. The substances must be very persistent, be capable of bio-accumulating in animals or plants and of being transported over long distances, and must have toxic effects on human health or the environment.

4. Transformers and capacitors containing PCBs must be removed from operation by 2025 and their contents must be disposed of by an environmentally sound procedure. The use of the best available technology and best environmental practices in the incineration and production processes in which POP emissions could arise should be encouraged.

5. In order to implement these obligations, measures will have to be taken, especially in developing and newly industrialised countries. The Convention provides for instruments that support such countries, such as financial aid and knowledge and technology transfer.

6. A further obligation under the Stockholm Convention concerns the development of a national implementation plan, which depicts a country's situation in relation to POPs and outlines strategies for the elimination of these pollutants. Switzerland submitted its original implementation plan in April 2006 and its first revised version in August 2012.

7. The effectiveness of the Stockholm Convention is evaluated on a periodical basis. Concentrations of POPs in the air and in human matrices (such as blood or mother's milk) are measured. Switzerland participated in a study on POPs in mother's milk that was coordinated by the WHO and UNEP (2008-2009).

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Last modification 25.07.2019

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