EU controls dangerous chemical imports

Commission decision restricts movements of 13 substances under UN Rotterdam convention

The EU has placed tight import restrictions on 13 highly hazardous substances under the UN Rotterdam convention. The decision was approved by the European Commission this week after unanimous endorsement from a committee of national officials in July.

Manufacturers wanting to export products containing any of the substances to any EU member will now have to gain the "prior informed consent" (PIC) of authorities in the importing country before shipments can proceed. The PIC procedure gives countries advance notice of dangerous imports and the option to block them. Each country must declare which of the 29 substances covered by the convention it wants to regulate through PIC.

The EU's decision to invoke PIC is final for five substances - binapacryl, captafol, hexachlorobenzene, pentachlorophenol and toxaphene. These are already banned or severely restricted EU-wide, so the extra import controls will have negligible effect.

For the remaining eight substances, the decision on extra import controls is interim. All eight are currently being reviewed under EU legislation on pesticides and biocides but for the moment EU member states decide individually whether to authorise their use.

An EU ban on at least one of the eight - lindane - has already been set in motion (ENDS Daily 17 July). The others are 2,4,5-T, chlorobenzilate, methamidophos, methylparathion, monochrotophos, parathion and phosphamidon. The European Crop Protection Association, which represents pesticide makers, said it supported the new controls as the substances were now obsolete.

The Rotterdam convention was agreed in 1998 (ENDS Daily 11 September 1998). Only eleven countries have so far ratified it out of the fifty needed for entry into force, though signatories have agreed in the meantime to implement its provisions voluntarily. Among EU states, only the Netherlands has ratified.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and the Rotterdam convention, which is managed by UNEP Chemicals, tel: +41 22 917 8111, and the FAO Plant Protection Service, tel: +39 06 5705 3441; European Crop Protection Association, tel: +32 2 663 1550.

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