Persistent organic pollutants criteria

Persistent organic pollutants criteria

As part of Australia's obligations under the Stockholm Convention, our assessors must consider these criteria concerning persistent organic pollutants (POPs):

  • For persistence
    • evidence that the half-life of the chemical in water is greater than 2 months, or that its half-life in soil is greater than 6 months, or that its half-life in sediment is greater than 6 months
    • evidence that the chemical is otherwise sufficiently persistent to justify its consideration within the scope of the convention.
  • For bioaccumulation
    • evidence that the bioconcentration or bioaccumulation factor in aquatic species for the chemical is greater than 5000 or, in the absence of such data, that the log Kow is greater than 5
    • evidence that a chemical presents other reasons for concern, such as high bioaccumulation in other species, high toxicity or ecotoxicity
    • monitoring data in biota indicating that the bioaccumulation potential of the chemical is sufficient to justify its consideration within the scope of the convention.
  • For long-range transport potential
    • measured levels of the chemical in locations distant from the sources of its release that are of potential concern
    • monitoring data showing that long-range environmental transport of the chemical, with the potential for transfer to a receiving environment, may have occurred by way of air, water or migratory species
    • environmental fate properties and/or model results that demonstrate that the chemical has a potential for long-range environmental transport through air, water or migratory species, and the potential for transfer to a receiving environment in locations distant from the sources of its release. For a chemical migrating significantly through the air, its half-life in air should be greater than 2 days.
  • For adverse effects
    • evidence of adverse effects to human health or to the environment that justifies consideration of the chemical within the scope of this convention
    • toxicity or ecotoxicity data that indicate the potential for damage to human health or to the environment.

Persistent bioaccumulative toxic criteria for Australia

The Stockholm Convention criteria for POPs cover very persistent and very bioaccumulative substances. However, a chemical deemed persistent or bioaccumulative may not carry values as high as those prescribed in the POP criteria (and hence warranting collective international action) but would still merit additional consideration in their assessment.

Chemicals deemed to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) may not be adequately addressed by traditional risk assessment methodologies.

PBT chemicals are not eligible for certain new chemical notification categories.

To identify PBTs we consider Australia's environmental PBT criteria.

For further information on criteria - read Environmental Risk Assessment Guidance Manual for Industrial Chemicals [PDF]

  • For persistence
    • evidence that the half-life of the chemical in water is greater than 2 months, or that its half‑life in soil is greater than 6 months, or that its half-life in sediment is greater than 6 months, or that its half-life in air is greater than 2 days
  • For bioaccumulation
    • A bio-concentration factor (BCF) of greater than 2000, or in its absence, a log Kow greater than 4.2
  • For toxicity (environmental)
    • for toxicity to the aquatic environment: the levels classified as Category Chronic 1 under long term aquatic hazard of the proposed globally harmonised system  (GHS) classifications
    • if inadequate chronic toxicity data are available (and providing the substance is not readily biodegradable and/or the experimentally determined BCF is >500), the levels classified as Category Chronic 1 based on acute toxicity of the proposed GHS classifications
    • toxicity to other (terrestrial) organisms or evidence such as endocrine disruption effects should be considered on case-by-case—the former should be compared with the ecotoxicity categories the Department of the Environment has developed for agricultural and veterinary  chemicals.

[1] OECD Series on Testing and Assessment No 27: Guidance Document On The Use Of The Harmonised System For The Classification Of Chemicals Which Are Hazardous For The Aquatic Environment

Summary of Australian environmental criteria for PBT chemicals

Persistence

For PBT purposes a chemical is considered persistent in a particular media if its half-life in it exceeds the following:

 

Media

Half-life

Water

2 months

Soil

6 months

Sediment

6 months

Air

2 days

Bioaccumulation

For PBT purposes a chemical is considered to be bioaccumulative if it has a BCF (bioconcentration factor) or BAF (bioaccumulation factor) of >2000, or in the absence of any BCF/BAF measurement, a log Kow >4.2.

Toxicity

For PBT purposes, in respect of aquatic toxicity, a chemical may be considered toxic under the following circumstances (corresponding to criteria for GHS chronic category 1).

Non-rapidly degradable substances for which there are adequate chronic toxicity data available

Chronic NOEC[2] or ECx (Effect concentration) (for fish)

0.1 mg/L

and/or

Chronic NOEC or ECx
(for crustacean)

0.1 mg/L

and/or

Chronic NOEC or ECx
(for algae or other aquatic plants)

0.1 mg/L

Rapidly degradable substances for which there are adequate chronic toxicity data available

Chronic NOEC or ECx
(for fish)

0.01 mg/L

and/or

Chronic NOEC or ECx
(for crustacean)

0.01 mg/L

and/or

Chronic NOEC or ECx
(for algae or other aquatic plants)

0.01 mg/L

Substances for which adequate chronic toxicity data are not available (providing criteria for P and B are met)

96 h LC50 (for fish)

1 mg/L

and/or

48 h EC50
(for crustacea)

1 mg/L

and/or

72 or 96 h ErC50
(for algae or other aquatic plants)

1 mg/L

and the substance is not rapidly degradable and/or the experimentally determined BCF is ≥ 500 (or, if absent, the log Kow ≥4.2).

Toxicity to other (terrestrial) organisms

Should be considered case-by-case, compared with the 'highly toxic classifications' the Department of the Environment (formerly DSEWPaC) has developed for agriculture and veterinary chemicals.

Long-term toxicity or evidence such as endocrine disruption effects

Should be considered case-by-case.

Last update 16 November 2018