UK and EU crack down on persistent organic pollutants

Both the UK and the EU are revising their rules around persistent organic pollutants (POPs), chemicals used sometimes in electronics manufacture and which harm the environment and human health.

Persistent organic pollutants stay in the environment for a long time. Picture: Pixabay

UK government announced recently that it had revised its legislation on POPs, with the latest amendment becoming effective on last month.

The new regulations permit the manufacture, placing on the market and use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds for oil- and water-repellancy for the protection of workers from dangerous liquids until December 2025. They also add to the UK’s list of POPs perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), its salts and PFHxS-related compounds and their unintentional trace contaminant (UTC) values.

The EU, meanwhile, has initiated a four-week consultation over its draft regulation to revise the specifications for the chemical hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) under its POP Recast Regulation.

In November, the European Commission website announced a consultation on a draft regulation to strengthen the limit value for HBCDD, which is used as a flame-retardant including in electronics, as an unintentional trace contaminant (UTC).

A POP is classified as an organic compound that is toxic, persists in the environment, accumulates in food chains, and poses a health and environmental risk. Their persistence in the environment means these chemicals can be transported far from their sources via air, water, and migratory species.