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Hexachlorocyclohexane - all isomers

lindane (gamma-HCH)

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
1.00 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Land
1.00 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
0.01 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Water
0.01 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Waste Water
This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
Hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) is a family of organic compounds. The most common form is gamma-HCH (lindane) which is a white solid with a slightly musty odour which evaporates easily.
What is it used for?
The main use of lindane is as a timber insecticide. Outside the UK, it is also used as a domestic and agricultural insecticide.
Where does it come from?
Emissions of HCH occur through its manufacture, use, storage and transport. HCH is man-made - there are no natural sources of HCH to the environment.
How might it affect the environment?
Releases of lindane to water damage insects and fish. It also accumulates in fish. Its ability to persist and accumulate in the environment mean that lindane can travel long distances and have effects far from the point of emission.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Although its use has been restricted in the UK, traces of lindane are still found in a variety of food products. Exposure to normal environmental levels in the UK is unlikely to cause harm. Very high levels (found elsewhere in the world, or following an accidental release) could however have severe effects: seizures and blood disorders, possible kidney and liver damage and even death. It is not known for certain whether or not lindane is carcinogenic.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
In the UK (including Scotland) the main legislation controlling releases of HCH are the regulations on releases to surface waters; the Pollution Prevention and Control regulations; the Food and Environmental Protection Act (FEPA 1985); and the regulations controlling pesticides (COPR 1986). It is also listed as a "red list substance", highlighting that it is of particular environmental concern in the UK. A number of European Directives are concerned with emissions of HCH: controls on the marketing and use of certain substances (76/769) and of certain plant protection products (79/117); risk assessments of certain chemicals (793/93); and emissions to water (76/464, COMM(2000)47 & 99/61); and it is listed as a "priorty hazardous substance" for the proposed Water Framework Directive. Internationally, the use of HCH is restricted under the UNEP persistent organic pollutants (POPs) convention; it is controlled by the UNECE convention on long-range transboundary air pollution; the Basel convention on transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes; and it is scheduled to be included on the lists for the OSPAR and Helsinki conventions which protect the marine environments of the north-east Atlantic and Baltic sea respectively.