EU ratifies Stockholm Convention on POPs

The EU has followed the example of various Member States and ratified the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) banning the use of a number of toxic chemicals.

The Stockholm Convention fully came into force in May this year (see related story). Thirteen EU Member States are already Parties to the convention and now the EU itself can add its weight and push for efficient implementation all over the world.

It bans the use of twelve chemicals, known as the ‘dirty dozen’ which do not break down easily in the natural environment, can travel long distances and accumulate in human and animal tissues. The POPs come from three main sources – pesticides such as DDT, industrial chemicals such as PCBs, and unintentional by-products of industrial processes such as dioxin and furans.

Most of these substances are known to cause cancer or be otherwise toxic.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom welcomed the ratification: “As a party to the Convention, we can push for higher global chemicals safety – not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of people living in countries where some of these nasty substances are still being used. It also gives us the possibility to propose additional POPs to be banned under the Convention. The Commission has already prepared a list of such substances that should be in the next generation of phase-outs and I am urgently waiting for the go-ahead from Council to submit this list to the Convention.”

EU legislation has already been aligned with the Convention, going much further in some respects, and bans the intentional production, marketing and use of the substances listed in the Convention so far.

However, the EU still has a problem with unintentional releases from such processes as incomplete combustion which can release dioxins, and PCBs which can be released through incorrect handling and disposal.

Traces of POPs have been found in humans and animals all over the planet and are known to accumulate in colder polar regions.

By David Hopkins

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