Consultation on the update to the national implementation plan on persistant organic pollutants: chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Introduction

National Implementation Plans

Canada is a Party to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a global agreement that entered into force on May 17, 2004. The objective of the Stockholm Convention is to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods of time, become widely distributed geographically, resist degradation, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife and have adverse effects on human health or the environment. By ratifying the Convention, Parties agreed to the management and control of POPs through a series of specific measures.

Each Party to the Stockholm Convention is required, under Article 7 of the Convention, to develop a National Implementation Plan (NIP) demonstrating how it will implement its obligations under the Convention. Canada submitted its NIP to the Stockholm Convention Secretariat on May 17, 2006[1], covering substances listed in 2004.

Text extracted from Stockholm Convention

Article 7 (Implementation plans) states:

  1. Each Party shall:
    • (a) Develop and endeavour to implement a plan for the implementation of its obligations under this Convention;
    • (b) Transmit its implementation plan to the Conference of the Parties within two years of the date on which this Convention enters into force for it; and
    • (c) Review and update, as appropriate, its implementation plan on a periodic basis and in a manner to be specified by a decision of the Conference of the Parties. [Emphasis added]
  2. The Parties shall, where appropriate, cooperate directly or through global, regional and subregional organizations, and consult their national stakeholders, including women's groups and groups involved in the health of children, in order to facilitate the development, implementation and updating of their implementation plans.
  3. The Parties shall endeavour to utilize and, where necessary, establish the means to integrate national implementation plans for persistent organic pollutants in their sustainable development strategies where appropriate.

In 2009, the Stockholm Convention was amended to list nine new POPs.

By Decision SC-2/7 of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Stockholm Convention in 2006, Parties are required to submit updates to their NIP within two years of the entry into force of any amendments. For Canada, the amendments to include the nine new POPs entered into force on April 4, 2011 (90 days after Canada deposited its instrument of ratification with the Depositary to the Stockholm Convention, the UN Secretary General). In accordance with Article 7(c), Canada has prepared this update to its 2006 NIP to inform the COP and the public of Canada's plan for implementing its obligations with respect to the amendments to Annexes A, B and C that added the nine new POPs.

Adoption of Amendments Listing New POPs

The new POPs now listed under the annexes to the Convention include pesticides, industrial chemicals (including flame retardants) and unintentionally produced chemicals. Most of the new POPs are listed in Annex A of the Convention, meaning that Parties are required to eliminate all production and use of that substance (except in areas where specific exemptions have been claimed; please see Chapter 4). One new substance is listed in Annex B, whereby its production and use are allowed only for certain “acceptable purposes” in accordance with specific exemptions. Another new POP is listed in Annex C and Parties are therefore required to reduce unintentional releases through implementation of best available techniques (BAT) and to promote best environmental practices (BEP). An overview of the nine new POPs is provided in below, identifying the Annex in which each chemical is listed, describing the principal use of the POP, and noting any exemptions.

Overview of the New POPs[2]

Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane (Alpha-HCH)

Beta hexachlorocyclohexane (Beta-HCH)


Hexabromobiphenyl (HBB)

Hexabromodiphenyl ether (Hexa-BDE) and Heptabromodiphenyl ether (Hepta-BDE)

Lindane (gamma-HCH)

Pentachlorobenzene (PeCB)

Tetrabromodiphenyl ether (tetra-BDE) and Pentabromodiphenyl ether (penta-BDE)

Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF)

Why Do POPs Continue to Be a Canadian Issue?

POPs are toxic substances, predominantly human-made, which persist in the environment and accumulate within living organisms, including humans. They can be introduced into humans through the food chain and, consequently, most are passed on from mother to child across the placenta and through breast milk. POPs can be transported great distances, and subsequently, deposited in the oceans and freshwater bodies of colder climates. Within these environments, POPs can concentrate in environmental media and biota.

The release, distribution and degradation of POPs into the environment are highly dependent on environmental conditions, among which climate change and increasing climate variability have the potential to affect POPs contamination via changes in emission sources, transport processes and pathways, and routes of degradation[3].

As a northern country, Canada continues to be particularly impacted by POPs. While all Canadians are potentially exposed to POPs, inhabitants of the far North are at increased risk to POPs exposure due to a diet and culture that relies on foods harvested from their surrounding environment. Three groups of Aboriginal peoples are found in Canada's Arctic region: the Inuit, the Métis and the First Nations, which in the Arctic include the Dene and Yukon First Nations.[4]

The Inuit are the most highly exposed people in Canada's North, because their traditional foods include marine mammals with a high fat content, such as seal, narwhal whale, walrus and polar bear. In contrast, recent studies show that the Dene, Métis and Yukon First Nations of the western Arctic are thought to have a lower exposure to POPs as their traditional diet is based on freshwater fish (such as whitefish and trout) and terrestrial mammals (such as caribou and moose). These animals are typically less fatty and their diets are usually associated with shorter food chains, limiting the biomagnification of POPs. However, certain perfluorinated substances, such as PFOS, partition preferentially to proteins in liver and blood rather than to lipids (i.e. fatty tissue) and may accumulate in patterns unlike those normally associated with POPs, including in less fatty tissues[5].

In addition to those POPs known to have been present in Canada's North for some time, a number of “new” contaminants have more recently reached the Arctic, including brominated flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorinated compounds, such as PFOS. Studies of PBDE flame retardants (such as tetra-BDE, penta-BDE, hexa-BDE and hepta-BDE listed to Annex A of the Stockholm Convention), have indicated that PBDE levels in Canadian biota have risen over the last two decades. Increasing incidence of these POPs in Arctic biota provides evidence of long-range transport of these compounds. PFOS is also an issue in Canada's North where it has been detected in higher trophic level biota such as fish, fish-eating birds, and Arctic marine mammals far from known sources or manufacturing facilities. In addition, compounds which degrade or transform into PFOS also contribute to the widespread occurrence of PFOS in Canada's North.

Domestic action alone cannot eliminate the impacts of POPs on Canadians and their environment. Because POPs can be transported great distances, international management is also necessary in order to limit the amount of POPs found in the Canadian environment. International agreements like the Stockholm Convention help to reduce emissions from all countries, which can ultimately end up in Canada.

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