BEGINNING OF THE END OF TOXIC POLLUTION: WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS CHEMICALS TO BE BANNED
Johannesburg/Auckland, 10th December 2000: Greenpeace welcomed the final draft of an historic global treaty to phase out some of the most dangerous chemicals on earth, agreed today by world governments gathered in South Africa.(1)
“Greenpeace also welcomes New Zealand’s agreement to the global goal of eliminating dioxins at the toxics treaty negotiations. It was a positive move joining the vast majority of nations and agreeing to this goal of protecting human health and the environment from these deadly chemicals.” Said Sue Connor, Greenpeace New Zealand’s toxics campaigner from Johannesburg today.
“This agreement sends a clear message to industries that they must reform and stop using our earth as a testing ground for their dangerous pollutants. Crucially, the tap that pours new persistent organic pollutants (POPs) into our environment will now be turned off,” said Kevin Stairs, Greenpeace political advisor.
“Now we can also eliminate those that are contaminating us today and put an end to this toxic legacy, the result of fifty years of unregulated environmental abuse,” he added.
The treaty aims to put an end to the manufacture and use of new industrial POPs chemicals as well as eliminating existing POPs. The “Dirty Dozen” POPs targeted by the treaty (2) include POPs pesticides and PCBs, used as insulation in electrical transformers, as well as unwanted industrial by-products, such as dioxins that can cause cancers in humans. (3)
These chemicals are some of the most dangerous on earth and are contaminating the environment and affecting human health worldwide. Exposure to POPs has been linked to a wide range of effects on the health and development of both wildlife and humans including cancers, endometriosis, learning disorders and the disruption of the hormone system. Of particular concern are the toxic effects of persistent organic pollutants on young children and the developing foetus.
The world has also agreed that, in order to work towards dioxin elimination, there is a need to replace materials, products and production processes which release dioxins with non dioxin polluting substitutes. Dioxins are primarily released during the incineration of wastes and by industries that use chlorine during their manufacturing processes, such as when making PVC plastic.
The treaty will be based on a precautionary approach, which urges action to be taken to protect against potential harm to human health and the environment. It also recognises that lack of scientific certainty should not prevent action.
A global commitment was made to help developing countries fund the elimination of POPs, a prerequisite for many countries if the world’s POPs problem is to be solved.
“It is encouraging that these chemicals, which are wreaking havoc around the world are to go. This is a significant step towards a toxic free future, but there is still a lot of work to be done to make it effective. The foundations have been laid, but the real work starts now,” said Connor.
For further information contact:
Sue Connor in Johannesburg: +0061 401 770 396
Matilda Bradshaw, Greenpeace International Press Desk in Johannesburg: 09 31 6 535 04701
Logan Petley in New Zealand: 025 828 028
Notes to Editors:
The treaty will be adopted in Stockholm in May 2001
The UNEP “Dirty Dozen” are: dioxins, furans, PCBs, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, heptachlor, DDT, dieldrin, chlordane, toxaphene, aldrin and endrin.
The US EPA estimates that, over a lifetime of 70 years, the risk of contracting cancer from exposure to dioxin is as high as one in a thousand.