Persistent organic pollutants

Find out more about persistent organic pollutants and the legal framework to protect the environment.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are of global concern.

POPs accumulate in the fatty tissues of organisms and, because of slow degradation, they bioaccumulate in food chains where they can pose a risk to human health and the environment.

POPs are carbon-containing compounds which meet the chemical assessment criteria for Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) substances. This means that they:

  • are toxic
  • are not readily biodegradable
  • can survive in the environment and be transported across international boundaries by air and water currents

Where do POPs come from?

There are three sources of POPs:

  • pesticides (plant protection products)
  • industrial chemicals
  • unintentional by-products

Some POPs may belong to more than one category.

POPs legislation

Find out about the legislation relating to POPs and how to comply:


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