What Are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)?
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are organic chemical compounds that have adverse, long-term effects on people and the environment. Highly stable and resistant to environmental degradation, POPs can be carried great distances by wind and water. In some cases, POPs can remain in the environment for years, if not decades. The most well-known example of a POP is dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), but they are found in a wide range of chemicals used in both industrial and agricultural applications. These chemical compounds can easily enter human systems through the food chain and bioaccumulate, with the highest concentrations of POPs found in organisms at the top of the food chain. Human exposure to POPs can lead to several adverse health effects.
Why Are POPs Dangerous?
The adverse effects of POPs pose a threat to people, animals and the environment. Exposure to POPs has been linked to developmental defects, chronic illnesses and even death. Some POPs are carcinogenic, and studies have found that many of these substances can cause severe issues with the hormonal system, reproductive system, central nervous system and immune system.
Because POPs bioaccumulate within ecosystems, most people are exposed through food consumption. Because of these risks and adverse effects, POPs are controlled through a global treaty: the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
What Is the Stockholm Convention?
First signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was adopted by the United Nations Environment Programme to safeguard human health and the environment from the harmful impacts of POPs. The Stockholm Convention requires signatories to reduce or eliminate emissions and discharges of these substances. To date, 182 countries have adopted the convention and enacted specific legislation to enforce it on their own terms.
How Are POPs Regulated?
Country-specific legislation resulting from the treaty means companies that manufacture or sell products containing POPs may face product recalls or market restrictions on a country-by-country basis. As a result, POPs are the single largest driver of product recalls in Europe. In 2019, the European Union updated rules surrounding POPs to more closely align with existing legislation on chemicals, including the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation.
To comply with global legislation, in-scope companies may be required to eliminate the production, import and export of POPs in their operations.
Compliance With POPs Legislation
Identifying POPs in the supply chain is the first step towards compliance. Companies with POPs present in their products should:
Review legislation in markets where their products are produced or imported.
Remain aware of updates to existing POP lists.
Evaluate POP alternatives for use in products.
Reduce and eliminate the presence of POPs in products and/or components.
Survey the supply chain to identify the presence of POPs.
How Assent Can Help
Assent’s Chemical Reporting Module helps companies manage POPs in the supply chain by: