Using persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Substances that are classed as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and when you're allowed to use them.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are poisonous chemical substances that break down slowly and get into food chains as a result.
In the past POPs were used in various products including pesticides and industrial chemicals, and released during chemical and agricultural processes.
The manufacture, sale and use of products containing POPs is now banned. You can only use material or products that contain POPs in the specific exceptions to the ban explained in this guide.
List of POPs
The following substances are classified as POPs:
|Substance||Chemical formula||CAS No||EC No|
|Endosulfan||not available||115-29-7 959-98-8 33213-65-9||204-079-4|
|Tetrabromodiphenyl ether||C12H6Br4O||not available||not available|
|Pentabromodiphenyl ether||C12H5Br5O||not available||not available|
|Hexabromodiphenyl ether||C12H4Br6O||not available||not available|
|Heptabromodiphenyl ether||C12H3Br7O||not available||not available|
|Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and PFOS derivatives||C8F17SO2X, where X is OH, metal salt, halide, amide, and other derivatives including polymers||not available||not available|
|Hexachlorocyclohexanes, including lindane||not available||58-89-9 319-84-6 319-85-7 608-73-1||210-168-9 200-401-2 206-270-8 206-271-3|
|Hexachlorobenzene (HCB)||not available||118-74-1||200-273-9|
|Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)||not available||1336-36-3 and others||215-648-1 and others|
|Polychlorinated naphthalenes (chemical compounds based on the naphthalene ring system, where one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by chlorine atoms)||not available||not available||not available|
|Alkanes C10-C13, chloro (short-chain chlorinated paraffins) (SCCPs)||not available||85535-84-8||287-476-5|
|Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) “Hexabromocyclododecane” means: hexabromocyclododecane, 1,2,5,6,9,10-hexabromocyclododecane and its main diastereoisomers: alpha- hexabromocyclododecane; beta-hexabromocyclododecane; and gamma-hexabromocyclododecane||not available||25637-99-4 3194-55-6 134237-50-6 134237-51-7 134237-52-8||247-148-4 221-695-9|
Exceptions to the ban on POPs
You can use substances or materials containing POPs:
- for laboratory-scale research
- as a reference standard, to calibrate scientific or analytical equipment
- if the POP occurs as an unintentional trace contaminant in substances, ‘preparations’ (mixtures or solutions containing 2 or more substances) or ‘articles’ (such as manufactured products like textiles or computers)
When POPs are unintentional trace contaminants
These POPs are considered to be unintentional trace contaminants when they’re present in substances or preparations at concentrations of no more than 10mg per kg (0.001% of the overall weight):
- tetrabromodiphenyl ether
- pentabromodiphenyl ether
- hexabromodiphenyl ether
- heptabromodiphenyl ether
- PFOS and PFOS derivatives
PFOS and PFOS derivatives are also considered to be unintentional trace contaminants when they’re present in:
- textiles or other coated materials at a concentration below 1μg (0.000001 grams) per square meter of the coated material
- semi-finished products, or parts of semi-finished products, at a concentration below 0.1% by weight of the parts of the product that contain PFOS (for example, if a 100kg semi-finished product includes a 1kg component that contains PFOS, the PFOS is considered an unintentional trace element if it weighs less than 1g)
Semi-finished products are products partially assembled or manufactured in one country and completed in another country where they’re sold.
Hexabromocyclododecane is considered to be unintentional trace contaminant when the concentration is equal to or below 100mg per kg (0.01% by weight) in substances, preparations, articles or in parts of articles that are flame-retardant.
If you’re using a substance, preparation or product that contains any other POP, email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out when the POP is considered an unintentional trace element.
Brominated diphenyl ethers: additional exceptions to the ban
Recycled plastics may be contaminated with brominated diphenyl ethers (tetrabromodiphenyl ether, pentabromodiphenyl ether, hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether).
You can manufacture, sell and use products containing these brominated diphenyl ethers if:
- it is electrical or electronic equipment covered by the RoHS Directive
- the concentration of brominated diphenyl ethers is below 0.1%, and
- the product is made from recycled or waste materials
PFOS and derivatives: extra requirements
You must use the best available techniques to minimise the quantity of PFOS and PFOS derivatives you release into the environment, if you’re using material containing PFOS or PFOS derivatives, under an exception to the POPs ban.
Additional exceptions to the ban
You can use material or products containing PFOS and PFOS derivatives in the following products and processes:
- wetting agents for use in controlled electroplating systems (until 26 August 2015)
- photoresists or anti-reflective coatings for photolithography processes
- photographic coatings applied to films papers, or printing plates
- mist suppressants for non-decorative hard chromium (VI) plating in closed loop systems
- hydraulic fluids for aviation
You can also continue to use ‘articles’ (such as manufactured products) that contain PFOS or PFOS derivatives, if the products were in use in the EU before 25 August 2010.
SCCPs: additional exceptions to the ban
You can manufacture, sell and use products containing SCCPs (short-chain chlorinated paraffins) if the concentration is below 1% by weight for substances or preparations, or below 0.15% by weight for articles (for example, manufactured products).
Mining conveyor belts and dam sealants that contain SCCPs can continue to be used if they were already in use on 4 December 2015. You can continue to use any other article that contains SCCPs if it was already in use on 10 July 2012.
HBCD: additional exceptions to the ban
The manufacture, supply and use of HBCD (hexabromocyclododecane) to produce expanded polystyrene (EPS) is allowed to continue within the EU if it is covered by a valid authorisation under the EU REACH Regulation.
EPS that contains HBCD and has been produced under a REACH authorisation may be supplied and used in buildings until 6 months after the authorisation expires. EPS articles already in use by that date may continue to be used.
EPS that contains HBCD may be imported from outside the EU and used as long as a valid REACH authorisation exists for HBCD use in EPS within the EU.
All HBCD-containing EPS that is produced or imported after 22 March 2016 must be labelled or otherwise identified throughout its life cycle to show that it contains HBCD.
Any other HBCD-containing articles that were in use on 22 March 2016 may continue to be used and may be re-sold.
PCBs: extra requirements
Find out about additional requirements for material containing PCBs.
Storing and disposing of POPs
For further information contact the Environment Agency:
Telephone: 03708 506 506.
Restrictions on POPs are based on the European regulation on persistent organic pollutants, which is implemented in the UK by the Persistent Organic Pollutants Regulations 2007.
Published: 27 March 2015
Updated: 8 August 2016
- Changes to the EU POPs regulations: new substances have been added to the regulations; conditions for some substances have changed; thresholds for waste management controls have been amended.
- First published.