Conclusions with regard to the effectiveness of the environmental policy
Old organochlorine pesticides are generally no longer found in human milk, with the exception of DDT (which was the most frequently used product, also indoors), HCB (which is also known as a chemical by-product of other substances and as a combustion product) and exceptionally HCH (which has only been prohibited recently). It remains to be verified whether these substances just need more time to disappear completely or whether additional measures may be necessary.
It is satisfying to come to the conclusion that the dioxin levels have clearly dropped again. Great efforts have been made with regard to the reduction of emissions, the search for remaining sources, standardisation and the monitoring of the food chain.
Thanks to a close follow-up, the marker PCBs have clearly reduced as well. The clearance of PCB oil should be completed in the near future: all necessary precautionary measures should then be taken in order to avoid environmental contamination.
The trend with regard to dioxin-like PCBs is less clear. The dioxin-like PCBs that are more difficult to measure have only been given full attention recently and the standards for animal feed and foodstuffs only apply since the end of 2006. Scrap processing companies have only recently been identified as an additional source of emissions. We still expect to see effects of those recent measures and findings in the future.
As to the brominated flame retardants PBDEs, we neither see a decline, nor an increase. The risks of these substances are still subject to scientific discussion. Anyhow, their presence on itself is enough to merit further attention.
Some substances have been found in human milk for the first time during official measurements in Belgium. Further measurements are necessary in order to see time trends and to be able to come to more conclusions. The aromatic substances musk xylene and musk ketone have been subject to some restrictions for their use in perfume and other cosmetics. In addition, research priorities with regard to perfluor compounds have already been set (these are fat- and water-repellent substances that are used in upholstery and in materials that come into contact with foodstuffs). Brominated dioxins have not yet been studied in detail.
Within the framework of the Stockholm Convention, a national plan needs to be drawn up including all actions with regard to the reduction of POPs. This plan will be drawn up in co-operation with all competent authorities in Belgium and will take into account the results of the project. It will also highlight the substances that were found in human milk. The national plan about POPs is linked to several actions, like e.g. scientific research programmes, pre-policy monitoring, the development of (national or European) legislation, the verification of legal compliance and sensitisation. In general the existing policy is pursued.
Besides, the idea is to carry out additional measurements in four years’ time in order to be able to follow time trends.