EU seeks global ban on more toxic chemicals

The EU is pushing for international action to phase out more persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which cause long-term damage to people as well as the environment.

Environment and industry non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also being encouraged to get actively involved in the first global legally binding agreement to protect human health, wildlife and the environment from the toxic effects of these chemicals.

Toxic POPs can resist normal processes that break down contaminates, can travel great distances in the wind or water, and accumulate in the fatty tissue in humans and other animals.

So far, Norway has nominated flame retardant pentabromodiphenyl ether and Mexico has put hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) forward, which includes the pesticide lindane. The EU has also nominated pesticide chlordecone and brominated flame retardant hexabromobiphenyl.

“Our prime aim is to ensure the necessary decisions are made for the effective implementation and further development of the Stockholm Convention (see related story),” spokesman for the EU Colin Church stated.

“We have been seeking to work closely with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, as we are very aware of the particular difficulties faced by countries that rely on POPs for disease and pest control.”

On the other hand, the biggest concerns expressed by NGOs were connected with a perceived lack of ambition in terms of the practical technical implementation of the Convention’s objectives.

Examples included the dioxin toolkit, designed to help countries eliminated dioxin emissions, the disposal of waste containing POPs, and guidelines on best environmental practice to minimise the release of unintentionally produced dioxins and furans.

Irish MEP Avril Doyle said it was vital to strike the right balance between implementing the current provisions of the Stockholm Convention and expanding its scope.

“We welcome the work that is now in progress to set up a non-compliance mechanism, which will give teeth to this Convention so that it is not just a paper tiger,” she commented.

By Jane Kettle

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