Download5 Hazardous Substances

A third of OSPAR priority chemicals are expected to be phased out in the OSPAR area by 2020 if current efforts continue. Environmental concentrations of monitored chemicals have generally fallen, but are still above acceptable concentrations in many coastal areas of Regions II, III and IV. Contamination with persistent organic pollutants is widespread and their long-range air transport to the OSPAR area, especially Region I, is of concern. Historic pollution in aquatic sediments acts as a continued source for releases of persistent contaminants.

OSPAR Contracting Parties should cooperate

  • to continue and improve abatement of pollution from OSPAR priority chemicals at source, including PAH emissions from combustion of fossil fuels;
  • to use OSPAR to promote further the global ban on use of POPs and worldwide control of mercury emission sources within the UN framework;
  • to use OSPAR to contribute to the identification, selection and prioritisation of hazardous substances of concern for the marine environment in the EU and promote actions under the REACH Regulation and other relevant EU legislation to reduce their releases;
  • to improve OSPAR’s understanding of the effects of hazardous substances, particularly cumulative effects and endocrine disruption;
  • to improve and extend OSPAR’s monitoring framework and better link it with the understanding of biological effects and ecological impacts.

Chemicals form an essential part of everyday life. They can be naturally occurring, like metals in the Earth’s crust, formed as unintended by-products of natural and human-induced chemical processes, or synthesised specifically for use in industrial processes and consumer products. About 100 000 substances are on the European market and around 30 000 of these have an annual production of more than 1 tonne per year. Some of these substances are hazardous because they are persistent, liable to accumulate in living organisms and toxic. They can contaminate the marine environment, with harmful effects on marine life and ultimately human health via the food web. OSPAR works under its Hazardous Substances Strategy to identify which substances are hazardous for the marine environment, to prevent, reduce and ultimately eliminate pollution with these substances, and to monitor the effectiveness of measures to achieve this.

OSPAR Strategy objectives for hazardous substances

  • Move towards the cessation of discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous substances by 2020.
  • The ultimate aim is to achieve concentrations of hazardous substances in the marine environment near background values for naturally occurring substances and close to zero for man-made substances.

OSPAR Regions