The Illegal Trade in Chemicals

Chemicals traded illegally

Hundreds of thousands of consumer products contain hazardous chemicals. Cosmetics, drugs, children’s toys, paint and not least food are among the products that may contain toxic chemicals. Lindane, for instance, a persistent organic pollutant in the organochlorine class, is present in products still available for sale. For about 60 years, many countries produced lindane as a pesticide, but due to its toxicity it is listed under the Stockholm Convention (in Annex III) and banned or severely restricted in 69 countries (PAN International 2017). The rapid growth of the agriculture industry has led to intensive production and use of pesticides. Trade in unidentified, fake, obsolete and banned chemicals occurs in licit and illicit markets. Pesticides containing hazardous chemicals are traded under different brand names with limited or no specific information about their chemical composition. Limited product information on chemical content and trading that lacks transparency are obstacles to effective controls. The types of chemicals that are traded illegally vary according to the conditions in domestic markets and the volatility of the global market. Pest outbreaks, for example, always create opportunities for the illegal marketing of effective, but extremely toxic and restricted pesticides. Furthermore, the use of pesticides is projected to increase in light of the changing climate (European Commission 2019). Fake chemicals are normally defined as active or inactive chemicals sold in assorted unmarked packaging while counterfeit chemicals are sophisticated copies of legitimate, branded products. According to experts, a recent trend is illegal parallel trade – chemicals are placed on the market in violation of laws requiring the consent of the producer, as when the product is not intended for a particular jurisdiction. Globally, the World Health Organization sets international guidelines to classify pesticides by their hazards for the purpose of encouraging nations to identify, assess, and decide their own appropriate measures to mitigate the risks. Hundreds of pesticides are classified in five different categories based on acute toxicity levels – extremely hazardous, highly hazardous, moderately hazardous, slightly hazardous and unlikely to present an acute hazard (WHO 2009). Furthermore, the Chemical Review Committee under the Rotterdam Convention reviews chemicals. The obsolete, banned, and fake chemicals traded illegally may cover the range of toxicity. Obsolete chemicals are those that can no longer be used because they have been banned, have undergone a physical change that makes them no longer effective or safe, are no longer wanted, are unidentifiable or are contaminated. Estimating the quantities of obsolete pesticides that return to the market is challenging. Recent research from Bolivia reveals

that significant quantities of obsolete pesticides are found outside of their storage places (Haj-Younes 2015) suggesting that they are still widely used. The OECD Best Practice Guidance to Identify Illegal Trade of Pesticides (2018), states that the proper disposal of legitimate pesticide packaging is important in order that the packaging not be reused for illegal pesticides. The guidance further states that the destruction of identified illegal pesticides and obsolete pesticides is important to prevent them from reappearing on the market. Nevertheless, huge amounts of waste are accumulated in unguarded storage facilities in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia, where there is a risk that the pesticides are relabeled and brought back to the market (OSCE 2015). Lindane generated hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste with the largest stockpiles reported in countries of the former Soviet Union, China, India, Japan, Brazil, South Africa and the United States (Vijgen et al. 2011; Vijgen, Aliyeva and Weber 2013). Phasing out chemicals requires due diligence. Many countries lack the technologies to dispose of or neutralize pesticides safely. In addition, countries are continuously working towards phasing out hazardous pesticides that become obsolete (PAN Africa and IPEN 2009). Banned chemicals are chemicals for which all uses within one or more categories have been prohibited by one or more countries, either because of an international obligation to do so (such as the ban on chemicals listed under Annex A of the Stockholm Convention) or as a result of domestic legislation. Banned pesticides are still traded, however. In Pakistan, which relies heavily on pesticide imports, banned persistent organic pollutants such as DDT, aldrin and dieldrin are reportedly traded (Faheem et al. 2015). Aldicarb, a highly hazardous pesticide banned in 56 countries (PAN International 2017), nevertheless appears to be traded illegally, and has reportedly been used to poison animals in Spain after the ban was introduced in 2003 (Bodega Zugasti 2016). South Africa reports aldicarb with the trade name Temik among the domestically banned chemicals easily available in the informal, unregulated street pesticide markets (PAN International 2017; Rother 2010; Arnot et al. 2011). Domestically banned chemicals such as aldicarb or carbofuran (often marketed under the trade name Furadan) are used to poison not only pests but also dogs, birds, lions, elephants and rhinos (Arnot et al. 2011; Monkeyland 2015; National Geographic 2018). The Stockholm Convention permits the use of DDT for vector control for diseases such as malaria, but prohibits its trade as a pesticide. Recent research suggests that DDT is traded outside

The Illegal Trade in Chemicals


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