Risk of rise in toxic chemicals

Climate change worsens the effects of toxic chemicals, according to a report released by the UN yesterday (February 21).

The study was released jointly by the Stockholm Secretariat and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) at the UNEP Governing Council.

It is the first systematic review of the impact of climate change on the release of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) into the environment.

The effects of climate change on POPs threaten to undermine the Stockholm Convention’s efforts to reduce exposures to POPs, say the authors of the study.

The report highlights the dangers of landfills leaking due to flooding, or other extreme weather linked to rising temperatures.

Chemicals stored in waste dumps to be incinerated or removed later could simply wash away, become more volatile, or escape in the warmer weather through gas emissions.

Higher temperatures increase secondary emissions into the air by shifting the partitioning of POPs between air and soil and air and water.

POPs can be extremely harmful to health and can cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, problems with reproductive health and hinder growth.

The Stockholm Convention executive secretary, Donald Cooper said: “Significant climate-induced changes are foreseen in relation to future releases of persistent organic pollutants into the environment, their long-range transport and environmental fate, and to human and environmental exposure, subsequently leading to higher health risks both for human populations and the environment.”

Alison Brown

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