St Petersburg, Russia. 23rd April 2001: Greenpeace today warned that pollution levels in the Baltic are above critical levels and that the entire region is a global toxic hotspot. The warning was issued in St Petersburg at the launch of a tour of the Baltic, to highlight the problem of toxic pollution in the region, on board the environmental organisation’s vessel the MV Greenpeace.
Although the 9 countries bordering the Baltic sea have made efforts to reduce pollution from some toxic chemical over the past three decades, a new Greenpeace report released today reveals that state of the Baltic sea is still critical.(1)
Evidence suggests that levels of some of the toxic chemicals authorities have been trying to reduce, including dioxins and PCBs, did not go down during the 1990s and continue to threat the Baltic eco- system and public health. In addition, levels of other toxic chemicals, such as brominated flame retardants used in electrical equipment have increased dramatically and scientists have also found new toxic pollutants in marine wildlife “Exposure to even a small amount of these chemicals can cause serious diseases in humans, and in the Baltic, they are above critical levels. The industries responsible for releasing these pollutants must start using alternatives and safe methods of production immediately if the Baltic eco-system is to be saved and the health of people protected, “ said Greenpeace scientist Michelle Allsopp, author of the report.
Existing levels of these chemicals are a cause for concern because they are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) some of the most dangerous chemicals to which systems can be exposed. They have been linked to a variety of diseases in humans, including cancers and reproductive disorders. POPs do not break down easily in the environment and build up in the fatty tissues of wildlife and humans. As a result, they are found to contaminate the food chain and human breast milk.
GP has analysed butter from several countries world-wide. A sample of butter from the St Petersburg region was found to contain some of the highest levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. (2)
Evidence suggests that Baltic fish is more contaminated with dioxins and other POPs than those in other waters. Authorities in Finland and Sweden are so concerned about the impact industrial chemicals in fish may have on the general population, the developing foetus and breastfed infant, they have issued health warnings. In Sweden, girls and women of child-bearing age have been advised not to eat Baltic salmon, trout or herring, more than once a month and the general population has been warned not to eat them more than once a week. (3) People in Finland have been advised to restrict consumption of Baltic herring. Other countries in the region have so far failed to issue such warning, despite the fact that their populations could be exposed to the same hazards from contaminated fish stocks.
This morning 15 Greenpeace activists dumped 200 kilos of Baltic fish at the Ministries for the Environment in Stockholm, demanding that all Baltic governments act now to stop POPs being released into the environment.
“It is nothing less than a tragedy that Baltic fish has become so polluted by industry and irresponsible politicians that authorities are having to take measures to restrict peoples intake. It is a stark reminder of what the future holds if these years of unregulated environmental abuse are allowed to continue,” said GP campaign Wytze van der Naald
World governments are so concerned about dioxins and other POPs that, after years of talks they have agreed to sign a global treaty in Stockholm on May 22nd-23rd that will commit then to eliminating the production, use and releases of all POPs and to prevent industry marketing new ones. They have agreed to start be eliminating 12 of the most dangerous, including dioxins.
Greenpeace supports this international treaty but stresses that governments and industry world-wide must take immediate action to stop the production and release of dioxins and other POPs. It is calling on all governments to issue an immediate moratorium on the development and expansion of industries that release POPs and to phase out all existing sources within one generation.
“It’s taken a generation of talking for governments to agreed in principle to solve the POPs problems. Now they must put their words into concrete actions. These dangerous pollutants will continue to build up in our environment and contaminate our children unless governments commit themselves to immediate action and a firm timeframe to rid the plant of all POPs,” said van der Naald
Notes to editors: The Greenpeace tour of the Baltic is the culmination of a three year long global tour to highlight the problem of toxic pollution world-wide. The tour will end in Stockholm on 23rd May as over 120 countries are scheduled to sign the POPs treaty. 1. Copies of Greenpeace “POPs in the Baltic” report are avail on http://www.greenpeace.org/~toxics/reports/popsbaltic.pdf 2. for full results see http://www.greenpeace.org/~toxics/reports/russbutter.pdf 3. recommendation made by Swedish National Food Administration in 1996 4. dioxins are not produced as an industrial product and have no commercial value. They are released as an unwanted by-product of industries that use chlorine, such as when bleaching pulp and paper with chlorine gas. They are also released when waste that contains chlorine is burnt in incinerators
Video and photo available of today’s Swedish action and also the photo opportunity in St Petersburg: Video + 31 20524 9543 Photo + 31 20524 9580
For further information: Matilda Bradshaw: +31 6535 04701 (mobile) Wytze van der Naald: +31 6270 00 0059 (mobile)
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