Experts agree to criteria, procedure for adding to global POPs treaty

Scientific criteria and a procedural process for adding other persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, to the initial list of 12 identified for global action were agreed to by an expert group meeting in Vienna last week.

The recommendations will be taken up by governments negotiating a legally binding international convention on POPs when they meet for the third round of talks 6-11 September 1999 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“These proposals represent a major step forward in moving us to a global treaty that protects public health and the environment from POPs,” said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director. “Taking action against the initial list of 12 and establishing the means for combating others will give us a strong and ready defence against known and emerging toxic threats at the end of the 20th century and beyond,” he said.

The UNEP mandate calls for a legally binding international convention to reduce and/or eliminate releases and discharges of 12 specific POPs and for criteria and a procedure for identifying additional pollutants as candidates for inclusion in the treaty. The mandated deadline for reaching agreement is the year 2000.

The Criteria Expert Group came to general agreement on proposed scientific criteria at its first meeting, in Bangkok, Thailand in October 1998. It reviewed them again in Vienna in light of the proposed procedure. The criteria encompass a series of technical factors that would trigger a chemical’s being identified for consideration, such as toxicity and capability of long-range transport. The procedure covers the steps to be taken to determine whether a chemical is a sufficient risk to warrant global action. These include nomination, screening, and evaluation.

The 12 POPs on the initial list for global action under the treaty being drafted are: the pesticides aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, and toxaphene; the industrial chemicals polychlorinated biphenyls and hexachlorobenzene, which is also a pesticide; and the unintended by-products of combustion and industrial processes, dioxins and furans.

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