14 NGOs have addressed an open letter to the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker urging the EU to lower the proposed acceptable hazardous waste limit for short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) to 100 parts per million (ppm). The current proposed EU limit under the Stockholm Convention for persistent organic pollutants (POPs), under which SCCPs are categorized, is 10,000 ppm, a “reckless” limit according to the NGOs.
SCCPs are a class of industrial chemicals primarily used in metalworking, but also as flame retardants and softeners in plastics, including children’s products. They adversely affect the kidney, liver and thyroid, disrupt endocrine function and are anticipated to be human carcinogens.
SCCP limits as well as limits for other POPs were discussed at the 11th meeting of the Basel Convention Open-Ended Working Group on September 3-6. Governments are expected to finalize their decisions on these limits by May 2019.
The NGOs listed a number of “disturbing implications” of the proposed 10,000 ppm POP limit, including:
• Significant new releases of POPs with accompanying threats to environmental health, since waste with high levels of SCCPs will be considered “clean”;
• Poisoning the circular economy since plastics containing SCCPs less than 10,000 ppm would be considered “clean” and could be used, re-used and recycled, thus further dispersing SCCPs into products, including children’s products and food contact materials;
• Opening the door to dumping of waste with very harmful SCCPs levels in developing and transition countries that cannot measure or manage them;
• Discouraging implementation of superior waste disposal techniques that can destroy all POPs content;
• Normalizing recklessly high “low-POP-content-levels” in the Stockholm Convention that undermine the objectives of the treaty.