Nations agree to new ban on flame retardant, tighter export controls on other materials

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A summit on chemicals and hazardous wastes ended Friday with an agreement to globally phase out a widely used flame retardant and to accept stricter requirements for disclosing information about exports of four other chemicals.

But participants fell short in their efforts to require more information and consent among nations trading in a construction material, Chrysotile asbestos, and a formulation of the powerful herbicide, Paraquat, despite support from most of the 169 nations represented at the two-week U.N. summit.

Officials in charge of three key international treaties said delegates agreed by consensus to a gradual phase out of the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane, or HBCD, which is used in building insulation, furniture, vehicles and electronics. The phase out would begin a little more than a year from now, but there also would be specific exemptions for five years on some construction uses in buildings.

The chemical will be added to the Stockholm Convention, which now regulates 22 toxic substances such as DDT and PCBs. The treaty takes aim at chemicals that can travel long distances in the environment and don't break down easily.

Delegates also agreed to tougher controls on disclosure of information about exports of an insecticide, Azinphos-methyl; two flame retardants, PentaBDE and OctaBDE; and a fabric protector, PFOS. But efforts to include two other substances — Chrysotile asbestos and Paraquat — were blocked by a few nations. Those actions fell under the Rotterdam Convention, which regulates information about the export and import of 43 hazardous chemicals.

Some 1,885 delegates and observers participated in the first joint meeting of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions that govern chemicals and hazardous waste and are each headquartered in Geneva. The conference culminated in a high-level meeting among about 80 ministers.

The Basel Convention regulates the export and import of hazardous waste.