Magazine article Science News

Persistent Pollutants Face Global Ban

Magazine article Science News

Persistent Pollutants Face Global Ban

Article excerpt

Last week, 34 northern industrial nations adopted two new United Nations agreements--pledges to phase down or out 19 toxic industrial pollutants. Known as the Aarhus Protocols, after the Danish city in which they were signed, the agreements call for mandatory controls on 16 persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, and on the heavy metals lead, mercury and cadmium.

When ratified by 16 of the signatory nations, both agreements will become treaties with the binding force of international law, explains Lars Nordberg, deputy director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE), whose 55 member nations drafted the new documents. Some of those members--such as Canada, the United States, and Russia--are not European.

At a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) meeting in Montreal this week, representatives of 92 nations began a process to enact similar global controls on 12 of those POPs: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, furans, and the pesticides aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, and toxaphene.

"While everyone here has a copy of the Aarhus agreements, there's no draft text yet [for a global treaty]," explains Michael Williams, a UNEP spokesman in Montreal. Participants at this week's meeting "have yet to even come up with a good definition of a POP," he told SCIENCE NEws. "Indeed, that will be the heart of this convention--agreeing on criteria for defining POPs and how additional ones might be added [to the list requiring global controls]. …

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