Substances of possible concern
The OSPAR List of Substances of Possible Concern (LSPC) was adopted in 2002. It is a dynamic working list and is regularly revised as new information becomes available which can result in substances being removed from the list. Furthermore, some chemicals have been moved to the List of Chemicals for Priority Action. The list contains substances that might merit action by OSPAR due to their persistency, liability to bioaccumulate and toxicity or other equivalent concern. Fact sheets have been prepared for each of the substances of possible concern detailing available information on e.g. intrinsic properties, exposure and legislation as explained in the "glossary on LSPC". In the light of developments in the chemicals sector in the European Community, namely developments under the Water Framework Directive and the regulation on registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH), OSPAR work on the selection and prioritisation of substances has been put on hold. Instead, OSPAR collaborates with the EC on these issues.
- EU ECHA website for substances included in the REACH candidate list
- EU Commission/DG Environment website for the substances prioritized under the Water Framework Directive:
Since 2006, OSPAR is in the process of reviewing the substances on the LSPC. The aim is to identify those substances which are of concern to the marine environment, and to which therefore the commitments of the Hazardous Substances Strategy should apply, but which are not covered adequately by the EC framework or some other international forum. This process has resulted in the grouping of the substances in four sections, to help identifying those substances which warrant further work by OSPAR.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. This web page is intended to inform visitors to the OSPAR web site about the OSPAR List of Substances of Possible Concern, and its role in OSPAR’s efforts to tackle hazardous substances in the aquatic environment. The "question and answer" format is intended to give readers a quick overview of the list, the criteria used to develop it, and its robustness and status. A contact procedure is given for readers who could provide data and information to improve the list.
What is the status of the List of Substances of Possible Concern?
2. The OSPAR List of Substances of Possible Concern is a dynamic working list and will be regularly revised, as new information becomes available. This may lead to exclusion of substances present on the current version of the OSPAR List of Substances of Possible Concern and to inclusion of other substances if data on persistence, toxicity and liability to bioaccumulate (or evidence that they give rise to an equivalent level of concern) show that they should be added. This version of the OSPAR List of Substances of Possible Concern was last revised in 2015.
Why has the List of Substances of Possible Concern been published?
3. The OSPAR Commission is publishing this List of Substances of Possible Concern in order to enable the transparency of its decisions on which substances to classify as chemicals for priority action, and to provide an opportunity for any errors or omissions in the data on which those decisions were based to be put right. Our goal is to keep this information up-to-date and accurate. If errors or omissions are brought to our attention, they will be corrected.
Why are some substances on the List of Chemicals for Priority Action also on the List of Substances of Possible Concern?
4. Section A includes individual substances belonging to or related to prioritised substances or groups, such as brominated flame retardants, PAHs, PCBs, nonylphenols and perfluorinated substances. While the group of substances has been prioritised by OSPAR, not all individual substances have been evaluated for their intrinsic properties and risk for the marine environment in the Background Documents. They are therefore reflected on the List of Substances of Possible Concern.
What is OSPAR doing to stop pollution by hazardous substances?
5. OSPAR’s main objective for hazardous substances is to prevent pollution of the maritime area by continuously reducing their releases with the ultimate aim of achieving concentrations which are near background levels for those substances which occur naturally (e.g. lead, mercury) or close to zero for man-made substances. OSPAR has developed a strategy (the Strategy with regard to Hazardous Substances) to achieve this objective, and is making every endeavour to move towards the cessation by the year 2020 of discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous substances which could reach the marine environment.
How are relevant chemicals being identified and targeted?
6. In order to tackle the hazardous substances which are of possible concern to the marine environment, and to prioritise the substances of highest concern for immediate action, OSPAR has developed a selection and prioritisation mechanism. This is described in the publication on the Dynamic Selection and Prioritisation Mechanism for Hazardous Substances ( DYNAMEC) as published on the OSPAR web site.
How was the initial selection and prioritisation of these chemicals carried out, and how does the List of Substances of Possible Concern fit into this process?
7. The selection and prioritisation mechanism consisted initially of 3 basic steps:
step 1: an initial selection step which by a worst case screening procedure identifies certain hazardous substances on the basis of their intrinsic hazardous properties of persistence, liability to bioaccumulate and toxicity (P, B and T). Definitions of P, B and T. These have been placed on the "List of Substances of Possible Concern" because they could adversely affect marine ecosystems;
step 2: a step which ranks these substances of possible concern according to their actual occurrence and effects in the marine environment;
step 3: a step which selects those substances from the ranked list judged to require priority action by OSPAR. Current OSPAR List of Chemicals for Priority Action.
Now that OSPAR has finalised the initial selection and prioritisation of substances, and taking account of progress within the European Community, what will OSPAR focus on in the future?
8. OSPAR 2004 agreed that the focus of the further processes on the selection of substances is:
to consider new information on substances already on the List of Substances of Possible Concern;
to consider information on new substances not addressed under relevant EC initiatives and decide whether they should be added to the List of Substances of Possible Concern;
to consider information on substances proposed for addition to the List of Substances of Possible Concern via the Safety net procedure.
OSPAR will not, for the time being, take any new initiatives for prioritisation and ranking of substances. Agreement for Further Work in relation to the DYNAMEC Mechanism (Reference number: 2005-10).
Why has OSPAR grouped the substances in section A - D and how has this been done?
9. OSPAR 2004 agreed to review the selection and prioritisation work taking place under the EC initiatives to identify any remaining significant gaps regarding the protection of the marine environment. OSPAR should then conclude whether to take up any such issues with the EC, or to fill any gap by further OSPAR work. To assist this review, OSPAR 2006 agreed further work on the substances of possible concern ( Agreement 2006-9) to narrow down the number of substances for efficient review by OSPAR. This consisted of a simple screening process in 2006 - 2009 of existing reliable evidence from easily accessible sources to identify substances for:
Section A - which warrant further work by OSPAR because they do not meet the criteria for Sections B - D and substances for which, for the time being, information is insufficient to group them in Sections B - D
Section B - which are of concern for OSPAR but which are adequately addressed by EC initiatives or other international forums
Section C - which are not produced and/or used in the OSPAR catchment or are used in sufficiently contained systems making a threat to the marine environment unlikely
Section D - which appear not to be "hazardous substances" in the meaning of the Hazardous Substances Strategy but where the evidence is not conclusive
All substances listed in Sections A - D remain of possible concern and OSPAR can decide any time to take actions if considered necessary, especially if new information becomes available. The screening process and the information sources are summarised in the Screening Documentation. Extracts of the screening database can be obtained upon request from the Secretariat. OSPAR is continuing joint efforts to collect targeted information on substances in Section A to further clarify the concern of the substances and to direct any further actions which could be followed-up within OSPAR or brought to the attention of the most suitable international frameworks. The section status of the substances on the List of Substances of Possible Concern is regularly updated.
Are persistence, liability to bioaccumulate and toxicity the only criteria for selecting substances?
10. A number of substances which do not meet the full P, B and T criteria have already been added to the List of Substances of Possible Concern because it has been recognised that they give rise to a similar level of concern (for example, endocrine disruptors, or shown to be widely spread in the marine environment by monitoring). The procedures with which OSPAR may add further substances to the list on the basis of equivalent concern are presented in the Guidance on How to Apply the Safety Net Procedure for the Inclusion of Substances in the List of Substances of Possible Concern (Reference number: 2002-10).
How does the List of Chemicals for Priority Action relate to the List of Substances of Possible Concern?
11. The List of Substances of Possible Concern consists of the substances which have been selected on the basis of their intrinsic hazardous properties (step 1). The substances on the List of Chemicals for Priority Action are those which the OSPAR Commission has to date determined require priority action, based primarily on recommendations from DYNAMEC’s ranking process and expert judgement as to which substances represent the highest concern due to the amount produced, the degree of hazardous properties and/or the actual occurrence in the marine environment (steps 2 and 3). As the work of OSPAR progresses, it is envisaged that the List of Chemicals for Priority Action will be further updated with substances from the List of Possible Concern in order that the objectives of the Strategy can be progressively met.
Where does the information about hazardous properties come from, and is it reliable?
12. The substances on the OSPAR List of Substances of Possible Concern have been identified by a worst case screening of a number of databases with experimental data on P, B and T. However, when experimental data are not available, substances have been identified by employing different models (QSARs: Quantitative Structure Activity Relationships) which estimate these values on the basis of chemical structure. The screening is not exhaustive as not all possible data sources have been available or because of limitations in the models employed. Furthermore, some substances may falsely have been selected due to data errors or outliers.
13. The P, B and T criteria used for the selection of the Substances of Possible Concern are described in the Agreement on Cut-Off Values for the Selection Criteria of the OSPAR Dynamic Selection and Prioritisation Mechanism for Hazardous Substances (Reference number 2005-09).
Is the underlying data used to select substances onto the List of Substances of Possible Concern available?
14. The underlying data used for the selection of the Substances of Possible Concern can be found on the relevant fact sheets.
Have the data on the List of Substances of Possible Concern been validated?
15. Expert judgement has been undertaken for only a part of the substances. Data for most of the substances have only been subjected to a preliminary scrutiny to ensure that they are sufficiently credible to indicate a possible concern. Therefore, there is still considerable room for improvement and confirmation of the data, that were used in a worst case screening procedure, especially if appropriate experimental values are available which may replace QSAR estimates. The extent to which the data for a certain substance has been scrutinised is indicated in the box "remarks" of the fact sheet for that substance.
What steps is OSPAR taking to improve the data?
16. OSPAR is keen to update the list and the fact sheets with more good quality data, and has been working with industry trade associations and OSPAR Contracting Parties to obtain such information. The more the list and the fact sheets become updated and validated with good quality data, the better the list will act as a tool to flag up those substances which are likely to be of concern to the marine environment.
What type of data would be of interest to OSPAR?
17. OSPAR is keen to get more good quality data with regard to the intrinsic properties (P,B and T) of these substances, or other substances with similar properties. However, OSPAR also does need information with regard to the production and use of these substances, and information on their occurrence in the environment.
What happens if new data comes forward on a substance which means that its selection is no longer justified?
18. Following expert review of additional data that has come forward, OSPAR has removed several substances from the list since it was first published. Information on these substances and the reasons for their removal can be found on the List of Substances Removed from the OSPAR List of Substances of Possible Concern (Reference number 2004-13).
19. The fact sheets for the deselected substances have been updated to include information about the reasons for deselection. Following this the fact sheets have been removed from the website and will not be updated any further. They are stored in the database of the OSPAR Secretariat and can be made available upon request to the Secretariat.
What can I do if I have information which might contribute to this process?
20. Visitors to this web site who have information which would enable OSPAR to update its List of Substances of Possible Concern are invited to contact the OSPAR Secretariat who will advise them further regarding the submission of relevant information. An empty fact sheet for the submission of such information and a glossary explaining the content of the fact sheet are available for downloading.
21. The Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to the contents of the list or the supporting data sheets. Efforts have been made to ensure that the information given is as accurate as possible, but it is not necessarily comprehensive, complete, accurate or up-to-date.
22. This disclaimer is not intended to limit the liability of the Commission contrary to any obligations imposed by applicable national law nor to exclude liability for matters which may not be excluded under that law.