POPs to be banned in May

Persistent Organic Pollutants will be banned internationally as of May 17, due to France signing the 2001 Stockholm Convention, this week.

The United Nations Environment Programme announced the ratification, Thursday, which will see the banning of 11 of the 12 substances outlined in the Convention. However, DDT will continue to be used for the treatment of malaria, under the guidelines of the World Health Organisation, as it is considered essential for the combat of the disease.

Contrary to claims that people will die from this disease under the Convention, it will help direct research and development towards an effective means of malaria control and act as a catalyst to finding a safe alternative, said a UNEP statement.

"Of all the pollutants released into the environment every year by human activity, POPs are the most dangerous. For decades these highly toxic chemicals have killed and injured people and wildlife by inducing cancer and damaging the nervous, reproductive and immune systems. They have also caused uncounted birth defects," said UNEP Executive Klaus Toepfer.

"By committing governments to eliminating production and environmental releases of these chemicals, the Stockholm Convention will greatly benefit human health and the environment. It will also strengthen the overall scope and effectiveness of international environmental law," he said.

The initial list of chemicals which will be affected, as well as DDT are: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenols or PCBs, hexachlorobenzene, dioxins and furans. The first Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention, which will take place in Uruguay in early 2005, will look at expanding this list.

Another goal of the COP will be to finalise guidelines for promoting best environmental practices and best available techniques, to limit the release of dioxins and furans from industrial and other sources.

Last year there was a general EU prohibition on the production of specified POPs, in preparation for the ratification of the Stockholm Convention (see related story).

In related news, the European Commission this week adopted a proposal, which restricts the marketing and use of certain carcinogenic extender oils for the production of tyres. The Comission says this move is intended to improve the protection of the public by setting safe limits for the use of these substances and is in line with the opinion of the Scientific Committee and the UN Convention on POPs.

By Sorcha Clifford



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