|PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay - Countries at a UN meeting in Uruguay agreed on
Friday to consider adding four new chemicals to the "dirty dozen" list of
banned pesticides and industrial chemicals, a UN official said.
The week-long meeting that concluded on Friday also sought to reduce the
legal exemptions included in the 2004 UN ban on the world's most hazardous
substances blamed for deaths, cancer or birth defects in humans and animals.
But exemptions for some toxins such as DDT were maintained to allow their
use to fend off deadly insects despite their harmful effects.
"We are very satisfied. The results here are not academic achievements
but they are achievements for all people in the world," said Klaus Toepfer,
executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which
organized the conference.
About 800 officials from around the world gathered in the Uruguayan beach
resort of Punta del Este to bolster the Stockholm Convention to eliminate
so-called persistent organic pollutants, or POPs.
The convention has been ratified by 98 of the 151 countries that signed
it. The United States and Russia are among those nations yet to ratify the
"Four chemicals have already been mentioned for further research and
integration, for example lindane, a pesticide widely used around the world.
These are very important chemicals," said Toepfer.
POPs build up in fatty tissues and traces can be found in every person in
The candidates for being phased out include two flame retardants called
pentabrominated diphenyl ether (penta-BDE) and hexabromobiphenyl (Hexa-BB).
The other two culprits are the insecticide lindane and the pesticide
The working group to study these four will meet in October or November.
It could take up to three years before they are formally included in the
Environmentalist group WWF had proposed 20 chemicals be added to the ban.
The conference upheld exemptions for some toxins -- most importantly the
anti-malarial DDT and termite killer mirex -- in some countries because the
death and damage caused by their disuse was considered to be worse than the
harm they cause. The list of exemptions is reviewed every three years.
"The convention required this meeting to determine whether DDT continues
to be essential to health protection and the decision was yes," said John
Buccini, acting executive secretary of the Stockholm Convention.
While DDT is banned for use on crops, about 20 countries spray some 7,500
tonnes of the chemical every year in their homes to kill mosquitoes. Malaria
kills 1 million people a year.
The UN estimates termites cause $30 billion a year in damage by chomping
through wooden buildings, bridges and crops.
Environmentalists were pleased with the possible widening of the ban but
said the commitment from some governments was still too weak.
They say countries need to find ways of financing poor countries who
adopt more costly alternatives to the hazardous chemicals.
"I'm not happy at all. What was lacking at this meeting was a greater
commitment from governments and multilateral organizations to increase
financing, especially to developing nations," said Clifton Curtis, director
of WWF's Global Toxics Program.
Story by Patricia Avila
Story Date: 9/5/2005
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