Part III POPs-free/POPs alternatives – overview and case studies
POPs Review Committee considerations on identification and evaluation of alternatives and developed guidance
POPs Review Committee considerations on identification and evaluation of alternatives and developed ...
The POPs Reviews Committee agreed at its fourth meeting that a guidance document should be prepared, describing the issues related to alternatives and indicated the considerations related to persistence, bioaccumulation, and potential for long-range environmental transport and adverse effects that should be taken into account when dealing with possible alternatives.
The document is intended to provide general guidance on the identification and evaluation of alternatives to the chemicals listed in the annexes to the Stockholm Convention or proposed for listing in the annexes.
The General guidance highlights that simply replacing POPs with other hazardous chemicals should be avoided and safer alternatives should be pursued. A “safer alternative” is an alternative that either reduces the potential for harm to human health or the environment or that has shown not to meet the Annex D screening criteria for listing a chemical under the Convention as a persistent organic pollutant. To ensure that a potential alternative leads to the protection of human health and the environment, a risk profile for the chemical being considered should be developed to assess whether it is safer than persistent organic pollutants. In case a comprehensive risk assessment may be impossible, due to the lack of information on its hazardous properties or exposure data, at minimum, a simple analysis of risk should be performed, taking into account the weight of available evidence.
Even if the alternative does not contain, use or lead to the formation of other chemicals with the characteristics of a persistent organic pollutant, it may lead to increased risk to human health and the environment depending on its hazardous properties and exposure conditions. Efforts should be made to collect information to ensure that:
•The alternative chemical does not have hazardous properties that raise serious concern, such as mutagenicity, carcinogenicity or adverse effects on the reproductive, developmental, endocrine, immune or nervous systems;
•The risk resulting from the use of the alternative is considerably lower than that resulting from the use of persistent organic pollutants, in view of its known hazardous properties and exposure conditions.
The guidance provides a general description of the issues to be considered in identifying and evaluating alternatives to listed persistent organic pollutants and candidate chemicals. The steps in the identification and evaluation of alternatives are shown in the figure below and the individual steps are described in individual chapters of the guidance document.
Figure 1: Steps in the identification and evaluation of alternatives
Foremost attention should be also paid to the potential for harm under actual conditions of use by consumers and to indications that the processing or manufacturing conditions of the alternative might increase health risks of factory workers. Finally, all exposures and risks must be seen in a product life cycle perspective to avoid burden shifting and to ensure an overall net benefit from substituting POPs chemicals in products and articles.
Key conclusions and recommendations of this guidance can be summarized as follows:
• It is essential to identify the precise use and functionality of listed persistent organic pollutants and candidate chemicals, which requires information to be collected from various sources, mainly through consultations with industry and other stakeholders. The availability of alternative chemicals, products or processes can be determined by conducting a survey on which specific alternatives are feasible for what use;
• Although it may be difficult to implement fully risk assessment on alternatives, Parties should at least confirm that persistent organic pollutants are not substituted by others POPs-like chemicals or by chemicals with concern of significant risk;
• Although it is difficult to estimate precisely costs and benefits of alternatives, Parties should make every effort to collect information on social and economic impacts to evaluate cost-effectiveness for a particular use;
•Cooperative efforts are helpful to facilitate further dissemination of better and safer alternatives worldwide. The development of the present guidance under the auspices of the POPs Review Committee is one example.