Trade rules for restricted chemicals reviewed

Experts recommend adding two hazardous pesticides to prior informed consent regime

International chemicals experts have recommended adding two hazardous pesticides to a list of chemicals subject to strict global trade controls during a week of talks in Geneva ending on Friday. The interim chemical review committee (ICRC) of the UN Rotterdam convention on trade in dangerous chemicals recommended against adding a third substance and called for more work before deciding on a fourth.

Agreed in 1998, the Rotterdam convention will establish a new global system of prior informed consent (PIC) by importing countries before specified chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted by governments can be traded (ENDS Daily 11 September 1998). The 50 ratifications necessary for entry into force are not expected until 2002, but parties have agreed to implement the rules voluntarily before then. Last year, the inter-governmental negotiating committee to which the ICRC reports agreed to extend from 27 to 29 the number of chemicals to subject to this informal PIC procedure (ENDS Daily 19 July 1999).

Meeting for the first time last week, the ICRC decided to recommend addition of pesticidal uses of ethylene dichloride and ethylene oxide to the PIC procedure, a UN official told ENDS Daily. Their uses as industrial chemicals should not be included, the committee said. These are mainly as a sterilant for medical equipment in the case of ethylene oxide and as a chemical intermediate in the case of ethylene dichloride.

Bromacil, a herbicide mainly used in non-crop applications, should not be added to the PIC control list, the ICRC recommended. Whereas there were four national "control actions" against the pesticide when it was nominated to join the list, only Sweden and Germany now maintain them. The experts judged that these rules were "not based on a scientific assessment of data," according to the official.

Maleic hydrazide could still be added to the PIC procedure, but the experts called for more work before a decision is made. Inclusion was proposed because maleic hydrazide can be contaminated by another chemical, hydrazine. The panel agreed that any substance severely controlled in at least two countries due to the presence of contaminants could qualify in principle. It called for further guidance from the inter-governmental negotiating committee on how to apply this to specific cases, including maleic hydrazide.

Follow Up:
Rotterdam convention home page, which is jointly supported by UNEP Chemicals, tel: +41 22 917 8111, and the FAO Plant Protection Service, tel: +39 06 5705 3441.

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