Chemical safety

Gefährliche Chemikalien

Gefährliche Chemikalien, © picture-alliance / dpa


PIC and POP: Two important international agreements concerned with the transfer of hazardous chemicals and the protection against persistent pollutants. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is also working on an agreement covering mercury.

PIC Convention on prior informed consent

The Convention for the Application of the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (the “PIC Convention”) was the first agreement to enter into force (on 24 February 2004) following the Johannesburg World Summit. The Agreement is also referred to as the “Rotterdam Convention”, after the city where it was signed.

The Convention obliges exporting signatory states to give importing countries prior notice of their intention to transfer hazardous chemicals and to effect the transfer only after the importing country has given its express consent. This arrangement is aimed, in particular, at protecting developing countries.

The PIC Convention imposes the following obligations on the signatory states:

  • the designation of one or more (state) national authorities which are responsible for administrative tasks. In Germany, these are the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) (for industrial chemicals and biocides) and the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) (for plant protection products);

  • notification of all control measures to the Convention Secretariat (Secretariat tasks are performed by the UNEP Secretariat in Geneva and the FAO Secretariat in Rome);

  • in the case of exports: creation of the legal-administrative conditions for informing the exporters involved about the decision of the intended recipient country;

  • export notification for (initial) export to the intended country of import and checks on compliance with requirements;

  • import notification.

POP Convention on persistent organic pollutants

The Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) entered into force on 17 May 2004. It is also known as the “Stockholm Convention”, after the city where it was signed. Germany ratified the Stockholm Convention in April 2002. The purpose of the Convention is to protect humans and the environment from hazardous chemicals which are spreading throughout the environment and which have negative long-term effects on human and animal organisms. Nine of the original 12 listed chemicals (the “Dirty Dozen”) are plant protection products which were banned in industrial countries some years ago but which are, in some cases, still used in developing countries. New substances are added to the list if they are found to be hazardous.

The Convention also lays down rules on the environmentally responsible disposal of POP waste and on minimising unavoidable emissions containing POPs, e.g. in the form of combustion by-products (dioxins, furans, etc.).

Implementation of the Stockholm Convention in developing countries is financed from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).


Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wild animals. Mercury is a non-degradable chemical element which accumulates in the environment.

In February 2009, the UNEP’s Governing Council agreed a negotiating mandate for a global environmental convention on mercury. To this end, an inter-state negotiating committee is being created, which is due to begin negotiations in 2010 and complete them in 2013. The intention is for the convention to cover the entire spectrum of possible mercury emissions, from ore extraction, through the production and use of mercury, to the storage and disposal of mercury waste.

United Nations Environment Programme - Mercury

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