Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

“Dirty dozen” are the first set of Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) banned by the Stockholm convention in 2004. Ever since 14 other chemicals have been added to the list. The committee is now reviewing 5 other chemicals to be added, which increase the list up to a total of 31 POPs.


  1. Aldrin
  2. Chlordane
  3. DDT
  4. Dieldrin
  5. Endrin
  6. Heptachlor
  7. Hexachlorobenzene (HCB)
  8. Mirex
  9. Toxaphene
  10. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
  11. Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD)
  12. Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDF)
  13. Chlordecone
  14. Hexabromobiphenyl
  15. Pentachlorobenzene
  16. Lindane
  17. Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane (α-HCH)
  18. Beta hexachlorocyclohexane (β-HCH)
  19. Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether (commercial PentaBDE)
  20. Hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether (commercial OctaBDE)
  21. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), its salts, and PFOSF
  22. Endosulfan
  23. Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)
  24. Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)
  25. Pentachlorophenol (PCP)
  26. Polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs)

Chemicals under review to be included in the list;

  1. Decabromodiphenyl ether  (DecaBDE)
  2. Short-chain chlorinated paraffins
  3. Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)
  4. Dicofol
  5. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

Why POPs are so significant?

Well, these chemicals are “persistent” in the environment. In other words, once released, it will never leave or decay from the environment. Also, they are soluble in organic fluids like oils, fats, and liquid fuels. This character helps them to bio accumulate and become long range travelers. A POP released from Sri Lanka can end up in Antarctic! They tend to bioaccumulate and bio magnify. Which means it travels through food chains and concentrate towards the end. As the figure shows, it enters the food chain through grass and ends up in the infant who feeds on mother’s milk. Just look at the concentration of the chemical.. its low in grass, little high in cow and highest in the infant.

Persistent Organic Pollutants and Early Menopause in U.S. Women

There are hundreds of researches that show what these chemicals can do to human, to animals, plants, fungus, algae , bacteria and other organisms in the environment. Ingestion (consumption through mouth), inhalation or  absorption through skin may cause developmental defects, cancers, endocrine disruption within reproductive system, central nervous system or immune system.


Yet, there are countries still thinking whether to ban or not these chemicals in their land. Some countries have accepted the ban (ratified the Stockholm convention), yet import PCB contaminated transformers, burn POPs contaminated articles in open and use POPs contained or contaminated pesticides, fungicides, etc… It’s pathetic. But;

There are things each of us can do to reduce the emission and contamination of POPs.


  1. Stop open burning of household waste.

There are number of items that can have POP chemicals in them. For example, plastics, PVC, electrical cables, textile, leather, carpets, rubber products, paper packages,.. etc. Thus it is not safe to burn anything in open air. Best thing would be to separate your household waste and submit to recycling centers. Specially electronic items and other non degradable waste.

  1. Reduce application of pesticides/ fungicides/ weedicides / insecticides and other pest controls available over the counter. There are natural substances you can use instead or repellents that can save your cultivation/ business.
  2. Be cautious of what you eat and drink. Even if someone has applied pesticides in your vegetables, you can avoid eating whole amount of those chemicals. Just;
    • Wash your vegetables thoroughly with flowing water
    • Avoid eating the peels of vegetables and fruits whenever possible
    • Allow veggies and fruits to be in open air for sometime before you store them in the fridge. This can help to get rid of volatile residues in them
    • Try gardening.. at least leafy vegetables can be supplied from your own garden.

4. Even if your meat contains POPs, you can avoid total ingestion by;

  • Avoiding fatty parts like skins of meat and fish
  • Avoid eating the gut, gills and heads of fish. Because the adipose tissues in head and other parts involved in food consumption, stores most of the fat soluble pollutants as well as heavy metals.

like to read more? here are some links;

  1. The POPs- Stockholm convention
  2. Health effects of POPs
  3. “POPs” by WHO
  4. Sources of POPs
  5. POPs- Air pollution Information System, UK
  6. Sources and Pathways of Persistent Organic Pollutants– IW:LEARN
  7. Sources of by-product POPs and their Elimination by Darryl Luscombe and Pat Costner, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaign, May 2001
  8. Persistent Organic Pollutant
  9. Persistent Organic Pollutants list
  10. Chemistry of Persistent Organic Pollutants
  11. POPs affects on women – Persistent Organic Pollutants and Early Menopause in U.S. Women, Natalia M. Grindler,Jenifer E. Allsworth,George A. Macones,Kurunthachalam Kannan,Kimberly A. Roehl,Amber R. Cooper Published: January 28, 2015

There’s much much more.. go surf as much as your brain requires. but just remember to do your part towards a toxics free future…



By admin

I am Chalani H.T. Rubesinghe (Bsc., MSc Env. Sc.). Being an environmental officer was my destiny rather than my desire. My favorite area of study is environmental toxics. I have performed research on chemicals in the environment and in consumer items, also shared those findings with the general public, during my carrier as an environmental officer. This website is an extension to that work in which I share my interests and stories. Do leave a comment if you enjoyed this article.

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