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New Zealand takes a hard line on pollutants

4 December 2000 Media Statement

New Zealand takes a hard line on pollutants

New Zealand would take a tough line this week in international negotiations that aim to control toxic pollutants, the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, said today.

The talks, convened by the United Nations in Johannesburg (4-9 December), could result in an agreed convention to control 12 types of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). All are toxic, very stable in the environment and bioaccumulate through the food chain. They are also widely distributed around the globe by wind and sea currents.

Marian Hobbs said international action was well overdue.

“They are dangerous chemicals which have been connected to birth defects, fertility problems, immunity disorders, developmental disorders, and to cancer,” she said.

The 12 chemicals listed by negotiators so far include 8 organochlorine pesticides such as DDT, PCB, hexachlorobenzene and dioxins and furans. These chemicals accumulate in fatty tissue, and can be ingested through fat-containing foods. They have been identified as posing an unacceptable risk to human health and to the environment.

New Zealand has already taken measures to stop the import, production and use of the pesticides and industrial chemicals listed in the draft convention. The Ministry for the Environment is currently developing a national policy on dioxins and furans.

Marian Hobbs said the Cabinet had instructed the New Zealand delegation to support international measures to reduce and/or eliminate releases of the 12 POP chemicals.

"We want to prohibit their production and use world-wide," she added. "On the question of dioxins the Government agreed to support the desirability of a long-term goal to eliminate dioxin emissions to promote human health and the environment. We will support efforts to seek agreement to achievable and affordable means to reduce significantly ongoing emissions of dioxins and furans."

The draft convention has been the subject of intense public interest, she said. Widespread consultations have included representatives from the health sector, professional associations, environmental consultative groups, commerce, industry, and non-governmental agencies.

“We wanted people with an interest in this field to have the opportunity for input," The Minister said. "We are still receiving enquiries on a regular basis."

If delegates can agree to a final text at Johannesburg, the treaty would be made ready for signature next year.


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