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Major treaty banning world's worst pesticides opens for signature

Major treaty banning world's worst pesticides opens for signature

Efforts to protect the environment and safeguard human health took a major step forward today as a new treaty banning the world's most dangerous pesticides was opened for signature at a United Nations-sponsored meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) bans a dozen of these toxic substances, which travel through the environment far beyond their original source and endure for years or even decades. The pollutants, which include pesticides, industrial chemicals and hazardous by-products of combustion, are known to become concentrated in the fats of animals and to build up in the breast milk of nursing mothers. POPs can kill, cause birth defects or generate diseases such as cancer.

The treaty was negotiated under the auspices of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). According to a spokesman for the agency, 90 countries signed the treaty at the Stockholm meeting today, and Canada ratified it. Fifty ratifications are required for the Convention to enter into force.

The 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 POPs. They are required to draw up national legislation and develop action plans for carrying out their commitments under the treaty.

While the control measures will apply to an initial list of 12 chemicals, a POPs Review Committee will consider additional candidates for the POPs list on a regular basis. This will ensure that the treaty remains dynamic and responsive to new scientific findings.

The 12 initial POPs banned under the treaty are aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene, dioxins and furans.