Hazardous Substances

Artificial and naturally occurring chemicals end up in the North-East Atlantic as a result of land-based and sea-based human activities. Some of these chemicals are hazardous for the marine environment. The OSPAR Hazardous Substances Strategy is to prevent pollution by hazardous substances, by eliminating their emissions, discharges and losses, to achieve levels that do not give rise to adverse effects on human health or the marine environment.

OSPAR implements this Strategy progressively by making every endeavour to move towards the target of the cessation of discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous substances. The hazardous substances-related work is implemented by OSPAR’s Hazardous Substances and Eutrophication Committee (HASEC).

OSPAR’s work on hazardous substances comprises:

  • identifying substances that are of concern for the marine environment
  • monitoring and assessing the sources and pathways of contaminants and their concentrations and effects in the marine environment, and
  • identifying actions and measures required to achieve the Strategy objectives.

For OSPAR purposes, hazardous substances are defined as substances that are persistent, liable to bioaccumulate and toxic (PBT substances), or which give rise to an equivalent level of concern as the PBT substances. For example, this might be concern that they can interfere with the hormone system of organisms. OSPAR identifies substances on the market that pose a risk for the marine environment and maintains a List of OSPAR Chemicals for Priority Action and a List of Substances of Possible Concern. These Lists are undergoing substantial review and revision in 2021/22.

OSPAR has adopted control measures promoting the application of best available techniques and associated emission and discharge limit values for the most important industries. Measures on substitution of hazardous substances, use bans or restrictions, and best environmental practices, address releases of hazardous substances from diffuse sources, such as consumer products.

The data for contaminants in biota and in sediment are assessed annually, using the OSPAR Contaminants App: https://ocean.ices.dk/OHAT/

OSPAR has developed a monitoring strategy that sets out the best way to collect data and information on sources, pathways, concentrations and effects, in order to track progress towards the strategic objectives for hazardous substances through annual assessments. This includes long-term data collection under the OSPAR monitoring programmes for:

  • atmospheric inputs (Comprehensive Atmospheric Monitoring Programme - CAMP)
  • riverine inputs and direct discharges (Comprehensive Study on Riverine Inputs and Directive Discharges - RID)
  • concentrations and effects in the marine environment (Coordinated Environmental Monitoring programme - CEMP)