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New Irish Regulation on POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants)

Legislation Update

The European Union (Persistent Organic Pollutants) Regulations 2020 (SI No. 146 of 2020) ensuring Ireland’s compliance with Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 on persistent organic pollutants (recast).


These new Irish POPs Regulations aim to ensure compliance in Ireland with the new recast EU POPs Regulation. The EU POPs Regulation is the latest update to EU Regulations dating back to 2004, implementing the Aarhus Protocol and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

What are POPs and what’s the problem with them?

POPs or Persistent Organic Pollutants are a set of synthetic organic chemicals which cause problems because they:

  • Persist in the environment…i.e. they don’t break down easily and can take decades or centuries to break down.
  • Bio-accumulate…i.e. they build up in the food chain.
  • Are toxic. In low levels they can cause cancer and neurodevelopmental problems
  • Travel long distances and are found in every part of the world

Most are produced for use as pesticides or industrial chemicals, but some are created unintentionally during the production of other chemicals or burning especially low temperature burning.

Examples include:

  • DDT, a pesticide,
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) which were widely used in electrical transformers and as an additive in plastics and paint.
  • Dioxins and furans, (PCDD and PCDF) which are produced unintentionally due to incomplete combustion, as well during the manufacture of pesticides and other chlorinated substances. They are emitted mostly from the burning of waste, peat, coal, wood and from car exhausts.
Persistent Organic Pollutants

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) previously commonly used in electrical transformers. Source here.

Is this new?

Not really, POPs have been regulated for years. The Aarhus Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the Protocol), a 1998 protocol on POPs, was adopted as an addition to the 1979 Geneva Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP). The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the Convention) entered into force in 2004 (although Ireland did not ratify it until 2010). Both the Protocol and the Convention prohibit or restrict making or using certain listed POPs. Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 on persistent organic pollutants  (the EU POPs Regulation) sets out to ensure compliance with the Protocol and the Convention. The previous EU Regulation on POPs Regulation (EC) 850/2004 had been amended 12 times so in the interests of clarity the old Regulation was revoked and the new Regulation was recast with all the amendments and some new updates.

So, what’s changed?

There has been some updating of definitions and better realignment with REACH.  Some additional substances have been added to the Annexes. Also, the European Chemicals Agency have been given some administrative, technical and scientific functions relating to the implementation of this Regulation and the exchange of information. The rules for the management of POPs stockpiles have been tightened up.

What does the EU POPs Regulation do?

The Regulation aims to protect human health and the environment from POPs by banning, phasing out or restricting the making, selling and use of certain POPs listed in the Annexes. It also aims to eliminate releases of POPs and regulate waste containing POPs. The Articles of most interest are listed below:

  • Article 3 Control of manufacturing, placing on the market and use, and the listing of substances
  • Article 4 Exemptions from control measures
  • Article 5 Stockpiles
  • Article 6 Release reduction, minimisation and elimination
  • Article 7 Waste management
  • Article 9 Implementation plans
  • Article 10 Monitoring
  • Article 13 Monitoring of implementation
  • Article 14 Penalties
  • Article 15 Amendment of Annexes
  • Article 19 Competent authorities

What do the Irish POPs Regulations do?

The EU Regulation applies directly but Irish Regulations are needed to set effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties as required under Article 14. The Irish Regulations must be read together with the EU regulation as the Irish Regulations refer to the Articles of the EU Regulation throughout.

The European Union (Persistent Organic Pollutants) Regulations 2020 (SI No. 146 of 2020):

  • Set out the offences and penalties for non-compliance with parts of the EU POPs Regulation.
  • Assign the EPA as the Competent authority and grants it powers to appoint “authorised persons” with powers to enter and inspect premises where they have reasonable cause to suspect there has been a contravention of the Regulations.
  • Instruct the EPA to prepare the National Implementation Plan
  • Identify the relevant “Public Authorities concerned” and instruct them to cooperate with the EPA in its functions under the Regulations including providing information needed to prepare the National Implementation Plan.

Want to know more about POPs?

More information can be found on the POPs section of the EPA website in particular the National Implementation Plan 2018 or see the sources section below.

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UN Stockholm Convention

World Health Organsiation

Environmental Protection Agency

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

European Chemicals Agency

Environmental Legislation , legislation update , Persistent Organic Pollutants
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