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Key accord on curbing organic pollutants set for signature in late May

Key accord on curbing organic pollutants set for signature in late May

An historic chemicals convention, which many scientists expect will deliver a healthier environment for people and wildlife worldwide, is set to be signed this month in Stockholm by more than 100 countries, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) under whose auspices the treaty was negotiated.

In a statement issued today in Nairobi and Geneva, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said persistent organic pollutants (POPs) threatened the health and well-being of humans and wildlife from the polar regions to sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

"It is therefore vital that after adopting and signing the Convention in Stockholm governments follow up quickly by ratifying the treaty so it can enter into force by 2004 at the latest," he said. "In the meantime, work must start right away on preparing countries to take action under the treaty. By adopting strong resolutions in Stockholm for the interim period, governments will ensure an immediate start to international action against these most dangerous of chemicals."

The Stockholm Convention sets out control measures covering the production, import, export, disposal and use of POPs. Governments are to promote the best available technologies and practices for replacing existing POPs while preventing the development of new ones.

The meeting in Sweden on 22 and 23 May follows December talks in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the treaty's text was finalized. Fifty ratifications are required to make the agreement legally binding.

Of all the pollutants released into the environment by human activity, POPs are among the most dangerous. They are highly toxic and sometimes lethal causing an array of adverse effects including cancer, allergies and hypersensitivity, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders, and disruption of the immune system.