Geneva, 9 May 2009 – nine persistent organic pollutants (POPs) were listed today under the Stockholm Convention. Over 160 Governments have just concluded a one-week conference with practical decisions that will strengthen a global effort to eradicate some of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) has marked a historic week for the Stockholm Convention. For the first time, the Convention was amended to include nine new chemicals. Many of these are still widely used today as pesticides, flame retardants and in a number of other commercial uses.
"This meeting in Geneva has culminated in a momentous day for the Stockholm Convention. Its significance cannot be under-estimated. We now have a clear signal that Governments around the world take seriously the risks posed by such toxic chemicals. The tremendous impact of these substances on human health and the environment has been acknowledged today by adding nine new chemicals to the Convention. This shift reflects international concern on the need to reduce and eventually eliminate such substances throughout the global community," said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive, Achim Steiner.
In another move, a groundbreaking decision on synergies was unanimously adopted, marking the collaboration between the Stockholm Convention and its sister treaties on hazardous chemicals and wastes, the Rotterdam and Basel Conventions. This momentum will gather pace at the UNEP Governing Council Special Session of the Global Ministers Environment Forum slated for February 2010, when an Extraordinary COP will follow immediately afterwards. For the first time, the expanded Working Group will be comprised of the three chemicals and wastes treaties in sequential COPs.
A landmark decision was also reached on the endorsement of the DDT global partnership. While DDT is targeted for eventual elimination, the Convention recognizes that some countries will continue to use this pesticide to protect their citizens from malaria and other diseases.
The PCB Elimination Network was also endorsed. Countries have now strengthened efforts to phase out polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs through a cooperative framework to support countries in the environmentally sound management and disposal of these harmful substances. The Network will be tasked with establishing key data and evaluating whether the use of PCBs is indeed declining.
The Conference also reviewed the process for evaluating the Convention's effectiveness in reducing POPs over time. A global monitoring programme building on various national and regional monitoring systems will produce a worldwide picture of trends in the quantity and types of POPs in the environment and in the human body.
The message of the Conference is clear: without 'Meeting the Challenges of a POPs-free Future', the chemical footprint represented by these toxic substances will remain and the global effort to minimize their impact on human health and the environment will fail. In a big step forward, Governments worldwide have united this week under the Stockholm Convention to push chemicals issues up to the top of the global agenda.
Note to Journalists:
The Stockholm Convention targets certain hazardous pesticides and industrial chemicals that can kill people, damage the nervous and immune systems, cause cancer and reproductive disorders and interfere with normal infant and child development.
The nine new chemicals now listed under the Stockholm Convention are:
· Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane to Annex A;
· Beta hexachlorocyclohexane to Annex A;
Although the intentional use of alpha- and beta-HCH as an insecticide was phased out years ago, these chemicals are still produced as an unintentional by-product of lindane. Approximately 6-10 tons of other isomers including alpha- and beta-HCH result from each ton of lindane produced.
· Hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether to Annex A;
· Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether to Annex A;
Bromodiphenyl ether congeners are a group of brominated organic substances that inhibit or suppress combustion in organic material, which are used as additive flame retardants. Brominated diphenyl ethers are mainly manufactured as commercial mixtures where several isomers, congeners and small amounts of other substances occur.
· Chlordecone to Annex A;
Chlordecone is a synthetic chlorinated organic compound, which was mainly used as an agricultural pesticide. It was first produced in 1951 and introduced commercially in 1958. Current use or production of the chemical is not reported.
· Hexabromobiphenyl to Annex A;
Hexabromobiphenyl (HBB) is an industrial chemical that was used as a flame retardant, mainly in the 1970s. Based on existing data, HBB is no longer produced and is not used in new or existing products.
· Lindane to Annex A;
Lindane was used as a broad-spectrum insecticide for seed and soil treatment, foliar applications, tree and wood treatment and against ectoparasites in both veterinary and human treatments. Lindane production has decreased rapidly in recent years and only a few countries still produce it.
· Pentachlorobenzene to Annex A and C;
Pentachlorobenzene (PeCB) was used in PCB products, dyestuff carriers, as a fungicide, a flame retardant and a chemical intermediate such as the production of quintozene and it may still be used for this purpose. PeCB is also produced unintentionally during combustion in thermal and industrial processes. It appears as an impurity in products such as solvents or pesticides.
· Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride to Annex B;
PFOS is both intentionally produced and an unintended degradation product of related anthropogenic chemicals. The current intentional use of PFOS is widespread and found in products such as in electric and electronic parts, fire fighting foam, photo imaging, hydraulic fluids and textiles. PFOS are still produced in several countries today.
The 12 initial POPs covered by the Convention include nine pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex and toxaphene); two industrial chemicals (PCBs as well as hexachlorobenzene, also used as a pesticide); and the unintentional by-products, most importantly dioxins and furans.
Further information is available at http://www.pops.int or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Tel: +254 20 7623084 or Email: email@example.com
Fatoumata Keita Ouane, Senior Scientific Officer, Tel: +41 22 917 8161, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marcella Carew, Public Awareness Officer, Tel: +41 22 917 8103, Email: email@example.com
SC News Release 2009/04