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Speech by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, at Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants 4-11 May

Geneva, 7 May 2009 - Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Firstly, please accept my apologizes for not being able to deliver this address in person.

But please be assured that I attach high importance to your deliberations and am being kept up to date on your discussions.

And plan to join you tomorrow for the final decisions to be taken at this fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Chemicals and Health

the safe management, use and trade in chemicals are among a range of issues that are rising rapidly up the international agenda.

The Stockholm Convention alongside the Rotterdam and Basel conventions represents a central part of the international response to the opportunities but also the persistent and emerging challenges presented by the industrial age.

Less than two weeks ago I attended the G8 environment ministers meeting in Italy. Here climate change and biodiversity formed key parts of the debate. But so did chemicals.

The governments of Japan and the United States presented papers, which formed part of the final communiqué, on environment and health.

The focus was on children, with the impact of chemicals a central theme including the question of endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruptors have perhaps slipped off the public stage in recent years, but it looks like they will be re-emerging as an important theme.

POPs, and also their breakdown products such as those linked with the use of DDT, can mimic the female hormone estrogen or block the male androgen hormones androgen.

Perhaps it is time for the Stockholm Convention to begin assisting the international community in unraveling the science and the health impacts of such breakdown products on the health-including reproductive and hormonal health-of vulnerable groups like children and the unborn.

Chemicals and Biodiversity

There is also a link to the Convention on Biological Diversity, with evidence that the POP Polychlorinated Bi-Phenyl (PCBs) among others can impact on the sexual health of for example, polar bear cubs in the Arctic.

Studies too linking POPs with impacts on reptiles and fish and of course birds.

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