Persistent organic pollutants are a category of chemicals including some that have become household names for their danger to human health. The category includes DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxins.
Completed in 2001, this treaty aims to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that share four intrinsic characteristics:
POPs are capable of affecting human health and the environment far away from the regions where they are used and released. While none of the twelve chemicals covered by the Stockholm Convention are now used or manufactured in the United States, there are still some uses in other parts of the world, particularly in developing countries. As a result, they can still have a negative impact on the health of U.S. citizens. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, damage to the nervous system, reproductive disorders, and/or weakening of the immune system. Some POPs, such as DDT, are known to have negative effects on the wildlife species themselves. Because POPs are capable of long-range transport, no one country acting alone can address their human health and environmental effects. A global agreement was needed to control the use and release of these substances.
The Stockholm Convention deals with intentionally produced POPs, such as DDT or PCBs; unintentionally produced POPs, such as dioxins and furans; and POPs wastes. For intentionally produced POPs, the Convention prohibits or restricts their production and use, subject to certain exemptions such as the continued use of DDT for malaria and other disease vector control. The Convention also prohibits or restricts trade in such substances. For unintentionally produced POPs, the Convention requires countries to develop national action plans to address releases and to apply "Best Available Techniques" to control them. Parties must also take appropriate measures to ensure that POPs wastes are managed in an environmentally-sound manner.
It can be difficult for developing countries to manage POPs; therefore the Convention includes a flexible system of financial and technical assistance through which these countries can receive help to meet their obligations. The United States has spent over $20 million assisting several developing countries addressing this issue.
Finally, the Stockholm Convention creates a science-based procedure to govern the addition of new chemicals beyond the current twelve. The process will allow a subcommittee of scientific experts to review and recommend to the Parties to the Convention whether the chemical �is likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health or environmental effects, such that global action is warranted." The Convention entered into force on 17 May 2004 and has so far been ratified by 144 Parties. The United States helped negotiate this treaty and signed it in 2001, but it has not yet become a Party to the Convention.
--05/02/06 U.S. Statement on Financial Resources at the Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP); Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; Remarks at the Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants; Geneva, Switzerland
--05/01/06 U.S. Opening Statement on Matters for Consideration of the Conference of the Parties (COP); Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; Remarks at the Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants; Geneva, Switzerland