Nations sign on to persistent-pollutants ban

12:10pm, May 30, 2001
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In Stockholm last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman joined her counterparts from 126 other nations in signing the new United Nations Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. This treaty, the first of the new century, echoes a more limited treaty negotiated 3 years ago under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (SN: 7/4/98, p. 6).

Though the convention calls for eventual elimination of all long-lived, low-volatility toxic pollutants, it at first targets only 12 such persistent organic pollutants, or POPs (SN: 12/16/00, p. 389). They are dioxins and related furans; polychlorinated biphenyls; and the pesticides aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, and toxaphene. Some nations will receive waivers to use DDT in fighting malaria (SN: 7/1/00, p. 12).

The production, sale, and use of the majority of these pollutants had already been banned or severely restricted in most industrialized nations. Many developing countries, however, continue to use such agents. That poses a risk to all nations because these chemicals repeatedly evaporate and condense, thereby leapfroging around the globe (SN: 3/16/96, p. 174).

EPA announced that the Bush administration plans to swiftly submit the new treaty for Senate ratification. The POPs convention becomes binding when ratified by at least 50 nations.

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