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SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
1.00 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
0.05 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Water
0.05 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Waste Water
1.00 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Land
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?
Pentachlorophenol (PCP) is usually found as a grey or brown powder, beads or flakes. It has a sharp odour when heated, but is almost odourless at room temperature. It dissolves only very slightly in water, but easily in fats and oils. It does not evaporate easily, but can be broken down by sunlight. In soils, PCP is broken down by micro-organisms to other compounds.
What is it used for?
PCP is used as a wood preservative and as a pesticide on masonry.
Where does it come from?
The major sources of PCP releases are from treated timber or masonry, from its manufacture, storage, transport and application. PCP is a man-made chemical - there are no natural sources of release to the environment.
How might it affect the environment?
PCP is toxic to wildlife in the vicinity of its release. It can also accumulate in the environment. It is however unlikely to harm the environment far from the site of emission or to have any other global environmental effects.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Exposure to low levels of PCP can occur from ingestion of contaminated food (such as fish or drinking water), but this is relatively rare in the UK. Exposure to high levels may occur in occupational settings (for example in wood treament plants). Short-term exposure to high levels or long-term exposure to low levels could damage the liver, kidneys, blood, lungs, nervous system, immune system and the digestive system. PCP may also cause birth defects and be carcinogenic.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
In the UK (including Scotland) emissions of PCP are controlled mainly through regulations on releases of substances to surface waters; the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) regulations; the Food and Environmental Protection Act (FEPA 1985); and the Control of Pesticides Regulations (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 PCP: 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 PCP is restricted under the OSPAR and Helsinki conventions which protect the marine environments of the north-east Atlantic and Baltic sea respectively.