Under the Stockholm Convention, Best Available Techniques (BAT) are defined as ‘’the most effective and advanced stage in the development of activities and their methods of operation which indicate the practical suitability of particular techniques for providing in principle the basis for release limitations designed to prevent and, where that is not practicable, generally to reduce releases of chemicals listed in Part I of Annex C and their impact on the environment as a whole’’.

Best Environmental Practices (BEP) are defined as ‘’the application of the most appropriate combination of environmental control measures and strategies.’’

Practical example of successful implementation of BAT and BEP

Kitakyushu's Experience in Getting Pollution under Control

Smoggy sky (1960s)–City of Kitakyushu, Japan Recovered sky(nowadays)–City of Kitakyushu, Japan
Dokai Bay once called the ‘Sea of Death’ (1960s)–City of Kitakyushu, Japan Recovered sea: Dokai Bay (nowadays)–City of Kitakyushu, Japan
Smoggy sky (1960s)–City of Kitakyushu, Japan
Recovered sky(nowadays)–City of Kitakyushu, Japan
Dokai Bay, once called the ‘Sea of Death’ (1960s)–City of Kitakyushu, Japan
Recovered sea: Dokai Bay (nowadays)–City of Kitakyushu, Japan

Photos: www.city.kitakyushu.jp

For more information, please read:

Kitakyusho Eco-Town Project (PDF document)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)

Listed under Annex A with specific exemptions and under Annex C

These group of chemicals possess properties including longevity, heat absorbance and form an oily liquid at room temperature that is useful for electrical utilities and in other industrial applications. Due to their physico-chemical properties, PCB were manufactured worldwide for use in a wide range of applications, most importantly as insulating were and heat exchange fluids in transformers and capacitors and other electric equipment, and in open applications such as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics.

PCB are toxic and can cause serious health effects in humans and animals, including reproductive impairment and immune system dysfunctions. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified PCB as Group 1 “carcinogenic to humans”. Of the 209 different types of PCBs, 13 exhibit a dioxin-like toxicity. Their persistence in the environment corresponds to the degree of chlorination, and half-lives can vary from 10 days to one-and-a-half years.

Once in the environment, PCB enter the food chain. PCB have been detected in human milk and, in some cases, observed levels of PCB were found to be several orders of magnitude higher than the WHO safety level. Large numbers of people have been exposed to PCBs through food contamination. Consumption of PCB-contaminated rice oil in Japan in 1968 and in Taiwan in 1979 caused pigmentation of nails and mucous membranes and swelling of the eyelids, along with fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Due to the persistence of PCBs in their mothers' bodies, children born up to seven years after the Taiwan incident showed developmental delays and behavioural problems. Similarly, children of mothers who ate large amounts of contaminated fish from Lake Michigan showed poorer short-term memory function. PCBs also suppress the human immune system and are listed as probable human carcinogens.

PCBs are toxic to wildlife, including fish, killing them at higher doses and causing spawning failures at lower doses. Research also links PCB to reproductive failure and suppression of the immune system in various wild animals, such as seals and mink.

PCB web section covers an overview, decisions, guidance, meetings, technical assistance activities, reports and additional resources. Information of the work of the Small Intersessional Working Group on PCB and the PCB Elimination Network is also available.

Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD)

Listed under Annex C

These chemicals are produced unintentionally due to incomplete combustion, as well during the manufacture of pesticides and other chlorinated substances. They are emitted mostly from the burning of hospital waste, municipal waste, and hazardous waste, and also from automobile emissions, peat, coal, and wood.  There are 75 different dioxins, of which seven are considered to be of concern. One type of dioxin was found to be present in the soil 10 - 12 years after the first exposure.

Dioxins have been associated with a number of adverse effects in humans, including immune and enzyme disorders and chloracne, and they are classified as possible human carcinogens. Laboratory animals given dioxins suffered a variety of effects, including an increase in birth defects and stillbirths. Fish exposed to these substances died shortly after the exposure ended. Food (particularly from animals) is the major source of exposure for humans.

Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDF)

Listed under Annex C

These compounds are produced unintentionally from many of the same processes that produce dioxins, and also during the production of PCBs. They have been detected in emissions from waste incinerators and automobiles. Furans are structurally similar to dioxins and share many of their toxic effects. There are 135 different types, and their toxicity varies. Furans persist in the environment for long periods, and are classified as possible human carcinogens. Food, particularly animal products, is the major source of exposure for humans. Furans have also been detected in breast-fed infants.

Hexachlorobenzene (HCB)

Listed under Annex A and Annex C

First introduced in 1945 to treat seeds, HCB kills fungi that affect food crops. It was widely used to control wheat bunt. It is also a byproduct of the manufacture of certain industrial chemicals and exists as an impurity in several pesticide formulations.

When people in eastern Turkey ate HCB-treated seed grain between 1954 and 1959, they developed a variety of symptoms, including photosensitive skin lesions, colic, and debilitation; several thousand developed a metabolic disorder called porphyria turcica, and 14% died. Mothers also passed HCB to their infants through the placenta and through breast milk. In high doses, HCB is lethal to some animals and, at lower levels, adversely affects their reproductive success. HCB has been found in food of all types. A study of Spanish meat found HCB present in all samples. In India, the estimated average daily intake of HCB is 0.13 micrograms per kilogram of body weight.