chemical blacklist from May 17 said too short
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
OSLO, May 16 (Reuters) - A "dirty dozen" of industrial chemicals blamed
for causing deaths and birth defects will be outlawed from Monday by a
U.N. pact with many experts wanting other poisons added to the blacklist.
Inuit hunters in Canada, among those most exposed because many toxins are
swept to the Arctic by ocean and air currents, plan to celebrate the ban
with a feast of whale, seal stew, fish and caribou in Iqaluit, Baffin
The 2001 Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
enters into force on May 17 after ratifcation by 50 states, ending use of
a range of pesticides, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
"The convention will save lives and protect the natural environment...by
banning the production and use of some of the most toxic chemicals known
to humankind," said Klaus Toepfer, head of the U.N. Environment Programme.
Even, so it will takes years for POPs -- used in everyday items like
plastics or paints as well as pesticides -- to break down. And everyone on
the planet has traces of POPs in their bodies, UNEP says.
And many experts say the "dirty dozen" list is too short.
"Some of the old classical pesticides are in decline in some areas," said
Lars-Otto Reiersen, head of the Artic Monitoring and Assessment Programme.
"What alarms us most is that levels of new products like brominated flame
retardants are increasing."
Flame retardants are used for example in sofas, clothing or television
sets. Some are restricting their use because of worries about their
"Brominated flame retardants are a possibility (for addition to the list)
as are many other chemicals," Jim Willis, head of UNEP's chemicals
division, told Reuters. Canadian environmentalists also want the pesticide
CANCERS, INUIT MILK
POPs can cause cancer and damage the nervous, reproductive and immune
systems of people and animals, UNEP says.
High levels of POPS have been found in Inuit breast milk and POPs have
even been blamed for deforming the sexual organs of female polar bears and
making them look like hermaphrodites.
"We are being poisoned from afar," Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the head of the
Inuit Circumpolar Conference that represents 155,000 Inuit, said last
POPs like the pesticides DDT, aldrin or dieldrin have been long banned in
many nations. Even so, anyone scraping off old paint from a window frame,
for instance, may release PCBs.
POPs build up in fatty tissues -- the world's whale population is probably
swimming around with tens of tonnes of POPs lodged in blubber. The Inuit
hope the ban will make traditional fatty foods, like seal or fish, less
The Stockholm convention will unlock spending of about $500 million,
partly to help destroy stockpiles and seek alternatives to POPs. About 25
nations, including South Africa and Ethiopia, will be allowed to keep
using DDT to spray malarial mosquitoes.
The WWF environmental group expressed worries that global warming could
exacerbate the POPs problem -- higher temperatures might wash out
chemicals that have been locked in glaciers, or flooding might release
European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, a Swede, said she was
screened last year for 77 toxins including POPs. "I had 28 in my body,
including PCB and DDT," she said. "I was told that my result was below the
average of the group tested."