Descriptor 8 of the MSFD describes protection against the pollution of marine waters by chemical contaminants. The Descriptor is closely related to the activities under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) [2000/60/EU], which covers freshwaters and some marine waters.

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D8 Commission Decision 2010/477/EU

Concentrations of contaminants are at levels not giving rise to pollution effects.

The concentration of contaminants in the marine environment and their effects need to be assessed taking into account the impacts and threats to the ecosystem ( 20 ). Relevant provisions of Directive 2000/60/EC in territorial and/or coastal waters have to be taken into consideration to ensure proper coordination of the implementation of the two legal frameworks, having also regard to the information and knowledge gathered and approaches developed in regional sea conventions. The Member States have to consider the substances or groups of substances, where relevant for the marine environment, that:

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According to the WFD, pollutants mean 'any substance liable to cause pollution'. The definition adds 'in particular those listed in Annex VIII'. In addition, in the WFD, hazardous substances are defined as "substances (i.e. chemical elements and compounds) or groups of substances that are toxic, persistent and liable to bio-accumulate, and other substances or groups of substances which give rise to an equivalent level of concern". This definition is in line with the definition of hazardous substances used in Regional Sea Conventions (RSCs), like OSPAR and HELCOM. Moreover, the WFD defines priority substances as "substances identified in accordance with Article 16(2) and listed in Annex X". Among these substances there are priority hazardous substances, which means substances identified in accordance with Article 16(3) and (6) for which measures have to be taken in accordance with Article 16(1) and (8).

As per Annex III of the MSFD, contaminants are synthetic compounds, non-synthetic substances and compounds, and radio-nuclides1. Therefore, the term "contaminant" relevant to the scope of Descriptor 8 of the MSFD encompasses hazardous substances, including priority substances and priority hazardous substances, but excludes three classes of pollutants from Annex VIII of the WFD, namely 'materials in suspension', 'substances which contribute to eutrophication (in particular, nitrates and phosphates)' and 'substances which have an unfavourable influence on the oxygen balance (and can be measured using parameters such as BOD, COD, etc.)'. These are covered under other Descriptors (namely 5).

Pollution effects are deleterious effects, such as harm to living resources and marine ecosystems, including loss of biodiversity, hazards to human health, the hindering of marine activities, including fishing, tourism and recreation and other legitimate uses of the sea, impairment of the quality for use of sea water and reduction of amenities or, in general, impairment of the sustainable use of marine goods and services, which result or are likely to result from the direct or indirect introduction into the marine environment, as a result of human activity, of substances or energy (MSFD Art 3.8).

Acute pollution events are events which can cause short time and severe pollution to the marine environment. They can be deliberate or accidental, e.g. illegal discharges and oil spills.

Environmental quality standards (EQS) are concentrations of pollutants which should not be exceeded in order to protect human health and the environment, as established in the context of the WFD, and thereby represent criteria for assessing whether Member States are in compliance (WFD Article 2, paragraph 24).