Ospar hazardous substances review progress

Officials review priority chemicals, debate selection mechanism for new substances

Officials from 15 European countries have moved further towards deciding how to completely end discharges of hazardous substances to the north-east Atlantic marine environment by 2020 during a week of talks in Berne, Switzerland, which ended on Friday.

According to officials of the Ospar convention, which is coordinating the process, the meeting reviewed part-finished documents on substances already selected for priority action, and took forward debate on how to select new priority substances. Concrete results from the discussions are expected by next spring, and a first round of new priority substances should be formally agreed at the next meeting of the Ospar Commission next June.

Fifteen hazardous substances were put on a priority list at last year's ministerial meeting in Sintra, where the long-term discharge elimination target was agreed (ENDS Daily 23 July 1998). Thirteen of these have now been assigned to rapporteur countries charged with proposing actions to reduce emissions, two more than had been agreed by the time of the last meeting of Ospar's "diffuse sources" working group in June (ENDS Daily 28 June).

The two new substance groups now assigned are the organohalogen compounds dioxins and furans, both of which have been taken on by Denmark. Only the organochlorine pesticide lindane and heavy metal cadmium remain still to be assigned to a rapporteur country.

At the other end of the spectrum, documents are now substantially complete for some other substances, such as organic tin compounds (steered by the Netherlands) and mercury (steered by the UK). Ospar would not release details of what is being recommended at this stage. Nevertheless, for organotin anti-fouling paints an official indicated that it was likely that Ospar would support work currently underway in the International Maritime Organisation aiming at a global ban on their use from 2003 (ENDS Daily 8 July).

During the meeting, officials also discussed the development of a scheme for selecting new substances for priority action, which will be used to add potentially hundreds of new substances to the priority list in the coming years. The scheme itself, plus a first tranche of new substances selected under it, is expected to be formally adopted by the Ospar Commission next June.

Follow Up:
Ospar, tel: +44 171 242 9927.

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