Warning that high quantities of toxic chemical waste from unused or obsolete pesticides present a ticking time bomb in many poor regions of the world, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for renewed international aid to keep alive its clean-up programme beyond the end of the year.
"Affected countries are calling - ever more frequently and with greater urgency - for assistance to remove their obsolete pesticide stocks and prevent the further accumulation of toxic waste," Mark Davis, head of FAO's programme on the Prevention and Disposal of Obsolete Pesticides, told an expert consultation in Rome.
"Unfortunately, without additional funds from donor countries, FAO will be unable to respond to its member nations that need assistance because funding for an FAO programme on the prevention and disposal of obsolete pesticides is ending by the end of this year," he said.
These wastes are posing a continuing and worsening threat to people and the environment in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Obsolete stocks in 53 African countries are put at 50,000 tons. In Europe, it is estimated that Ukraine has 19,500 tons of ageing chemicals, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia 10,000 tons, Poland 15,000 tons and Moldova 6,600 tons.
Stocks in Asia are currently recorded at 6,000 tons, a figure which does not include China, where the problem is believed to be widespread. In the Middle East and Latin America around 10,000 tons have been declared. Waste sites contain some of the most dangerous insecticides like the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor and organophosphates.
Stockpiles have accumulated because some products have been banned for health or environmental reasons, but were never properly discarded. These stocks often deteriorate to contaminate the environment and put people at risk. The worst affected are frequently poor rural communities that may not even be aware of the toxic nature of the chemicals in their environment.
"Clean-up and prevention measures urgently need to be combined," Mr. Davis said. "The awareness of a targeted and limited use of pesticides, respecting human health and the environment, needs to be urgently raised in many countries."
The clean-up of one ton of obsolete pesticide waste costs around $3,500. Most developing countries do not have the facilities for safe hazardous waste disposal.