BRUSSELS, Belgium -
Fifteen chemicals would be added to a list of priority substances regulated by
the EU's water framework law, under a European Commission proposal issued
Tuesday. Six of them would be designated as priority hazardous substances that
must be phased out within 20 years.
Two substances already on
the list would be newly classed as hazardous, requiring their elimination as
Janez Potocnik said, "Water pollution is one of the environmental worries
most frequently cited by EU citizens. I welcome this advance as it is clearly
answering people's expectations. These 15 additional chemicals need to be
monitored and controlled to ensure they don't pose a risk to the environment or
For six of the 15 newly
identified priority substances, the proposal requires their release to water to
be eliminated in 20 years. The proposal also includes stricter standards for
four currently controlled substances, and a requirement to phase out the
emissions of two others already on the list.
A more complete
description of the 15 substances and the dangers they present is at the foot of
For the first time,
pharmaceuticals are proposed for listing as priority substances. The proposal
does not question the medicinal value of these substances, but addresses the
potential harmful effects of their presence in the aquatic environment.
The six Priority
Hazardous Substances in the proposal are: Dicofol, Quinoxyfen,
Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, Heptachlor, Hexabromocyclododecane, Dioxin and
The substances already on
the Priority Substances List but which would be subject to stricter standards
are: Brominated diphenylethers, Fluoranthene, Nickel, Polyaromatic
The two existing
substances which would become Priority Hazardous Substances are Diethylhexylphthalate
Priority substances are
chemical pollutants that pose a "significant risk" to the aquatic
environment across the European Union. There are currently 33 priority
substances listed under the Water Framework Directive. The 27 EU Member States
have to monitor their concentrations in surface waters and meet the
Environmental Quality Standards set for them within a certain timeline, unless
they qualify for exemptions.
For the nine substances
proposed for addition to the priority list but not classed as
"hazardous," the proposal requires only monitoring. It does not
require EU Member States to take any measures to limit emissions of these
chemicals, remove them from waterways or find substitutes for them.
Existing EU and/or
international legislation is expected to reduce the emissions of many of these
nine substances, the Commission says, adding that inclusion of the substances
in the Priority Substances List means that monitoring data would be obtained to
provide feedback on the effectiveness of existing legislation.
The substances that would
be designated as priority hazardous substances are already, or will probably
soon become, subject to controls under other legislation. And in most cases
substitutes are available or are likely to be developed within the 20-year
timeframe for phasing out emissions, the Commission said.
Member States would have
to take all six of the newly listed priority hazardous substances and the two
chemicals reclassified as hazardous into account in preparing and implementing
their second River Basin Management Plans, which are due to be adopted in 2015.
They would have to ensure that the additional substances are monitored, and
that Environmental Quality Standards are met by 2021.
The Commission says this
requirement could mean that Member States take measures at the national or
local level. But if additional measures taken at local or national level prove
insufficient to meet the Environmental Quality Standards, additional EU
measures "might need to be considered," the Commission said.
Environmentalists say the
proposal is too weak to protect human health or European waters.
Greenpeace EU chemicals
policy director Kevin Stairs said, "It's been 12 years since lawmakers
agreed to phase out the most dangerous chemicals from our water - chemicals
linked to serious human illnesses and toxic contamination of rivers and lakes.
Since then, the Commission has systematically dodged its responsibility to set
concrete plans to rid our water of these known poisons and would instead allow
them to contaminate yet another generation."
Environmental Bureau, Europe's largest federation of environmental
organizations with more than 140 member groups, said the proposal is inadequate
to prevent hazardous chemical pollution.
Too few substances have
been selected for limitation, said the EEB, and there are insufficient
guarantees that the EU-wide measures will be taken to phase out the release of
the most dangerous substances.
"From a list of
2,000 substances initially considered as potentially dangerous, it is worrying
to see that the Commission has decided to target only 15 of these for pollution
reduction. Considering they are supposed to take a precautionary approach to
these matters, this seems reckless," said Sarolta Tripolszky, EEB's water
The EEB is concerned that
the directive fails to deal with chemical cocktail effects, the often unknown
impact of a mix of two or more hazardous chemicals. The EEB did welcome the
introduction of pharmaceuticals as a long awaited recognition of the fact that
these have "disastrous environmental consequences." The group also
welcomed the introduction of a watch list to support the future identification
and monitoring of potentially toxic substances.
principle that water is a heritage which must be protected, defended and
treated as such has been part of EU water policy for over a decade now, the
Commission is yet to come up with effective measures to phase out the release
of hazardous substances in water," said Christian Schaible, EEB's Chemical
Policy officer. The EEB calls for the establishment of a binding timetable and
a straightforward framework for phase-out measures within the EQS directive
which is to be harmonized with other EU legislation. The European Commission
says in its proposal that "a new mechanism" is needed to provide
targeted high-quality monitoring information on the concentration of substances
in the aquatic environment across EU river basins, with a focus on emerging
pollutants and substances for which available monitoring data are not of
sufficient quality for the purpose of risk assessment. To maintain the
monitoring costs at reasonable levels, the Commission proposes that the
mechanism focus on a limited number of substances, included temporarily in a
"dynamic" watch list, and a limited number of monitoring sites, but
deliver representative data that are fit for the purpose of the EU
The 15 toxic substances
in the Commission's proposal are:
(EE2) - Pharmaceutical; synthetic steroid hormone used mainly in oral
contraceptives. Endocrine disruptive; prolonged exposure to low concentrations
of EE2 has been shown to cause sex changes, alterations in reproductive
capacity, and ultimately population collapse in fish.
17 beta-estradiol (E2) -
Steroid hormone: 90 percent excreted naturally in human and livestock urine;
remainder emitted as a result of pharmaceutical use for hormone replacement
therapy. Endocrine disruptive; studies show effects on sexual development and
fecundity in fish.
Aclonifen - Herbicide,
used on a range of arable crops.
Bifenox - Herbicide, used
to kill broadleaf weeds in cereal crops and grassland.
Cybutryne, marketed as
Irgarol - Biocide used as antifouling agent in coatings for boat hulls. Toxic;
degrades only slowly and main degradation product also toxic; persists in
Insecticidal pyrethroid plant protection product and biocide, used in arable
farming, salmon farming, sheep dipping and wood preservation. Binds to
sediment. Use in the marine environment is authorized in a few countries of the
world but prohibited in Canada, where it is linked to the death of lobsters.
Organophosphorus insecticide and biocide, used in grain/nut stores,
insecticidal sprays/strips. Toxic particularly to aquatic invertebrates and
fish; possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Pharmaceutical, used as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Toxic, directly
and through secondary pathways such as the extermination of vultures in India
poisoned by eating carcasses of cattle that had been treated with the drug.
Dicofol - Organochlorine
former plant protection product and biocide, until recently authorized for use
on fruit and vegetable crops. Toxic; similar to DDT, recommended for
designation as a Persistent Organic Pollutant under the Stockholm Convention;
possibly carcinogenic to humans, possibly endocrine disruptive.
Dioxins and dioxin-like
polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs - Dioxins are by-products of thermal
combustion. PCBs are chlorinated organic compounds formerly used to manufacture
electrical equipment, some also produced by combustion. Some forms probably
carcinogenic to humans; other possible effects include endocrine disruption,
impairment of immune system, nervous system, reproduction. Limits already set
for presence in feed and food.
HBCDD - Brominated industrial chemical, used as flame retardant, especially in
polystyrene, including insulation boards. Classed as a persistent
bioaccumulative and toxic substance and also as a substance of very high
concern under the EU chemicals law, REACH, recommended for designation as a
Persistent Organic Pollutant under the Stockholm Convention. Possibly toxic to
reproduction in humans.
epoxide - Organochlorine insecticide, no longer authorized for use in the EU,
but secondary emissions possible. Classed as a Persistent Organic Pollutant under
the Stockholm Convention, it is very toxic to aquatic organisms; possibly or
probably carcinogenic to humans, possibly endocrine disruptive.
acid or perfluorooctane sulfonate, PFOS - Industrial chemical, used in
hydraulic aviation fluids, photography, electroplating. Present in many
existing products, especially textiles. Classed as a persistent bioaccumulative
and toxic substance and as a Persistent Organic Pollutant under the Stockholm
Convention. Toxic to animals especially mammals. Possible carcinogen in humans;
possible effects on thyroid function.
Quinoxyfen - Fungicide,
used mainly on cereals, grape vines. Classed as "very persistent and very
bioaccumulative." Accumulates in sediments.
Terbutryn - Biocide, used
especially in coatings for buildings, as preservative. Toxic especially to
algae and aquatic plants.
The European Union is
party to international water protection treaties, such as the Helsinki
Convention, the Barcelona Convention, and the Paris Convention, which require
the elimination of all hazardous substances to water bodies within one
generation, 25 years, to be achieved by 2020.
February 05, 2012.