NGOs Push For Fulfillment of Anti-Pollution
Environmental organizations from around the world will be
meeting in the Uruguayan capital to demand compliance with the
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
and the expansion of its ”black list” of banned chemicals.
MONTEVIDEO, Apr 25 (IPS) - POPs are chemicals that remain
intact in the environment for long periods, become widely
distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of
living organisms -- and can thus be passed along the food
chain -- and are toxic to animals and humans.
The activists meeting in Montevideo will also demand
comprehensive studies to detect the origin of the ”dirty
dozen” prohibited toxins.
Only a limited number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
will be allowed to participate as observers at the first
Conference of the Parties to the Convention, to be held May
2-6 in the internationally renowned Uruguayan resort city of
Punta del Este.
That is why the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN)
has organized an NGO meeting in Montevideo prior to the
Conference of the Parties, where it will present details of a
worldwide study on the prevalence of these toxic chemicals in
18 signatory countries.
The Convention is aimed at eliminating or reducing levels of
eight chemicals used as pesticides (aldrine, chlordane, DDT,
dieldrine, eldrine, heptachlor, mirex and toxaphen), two
industrial compounds (hexachlorobenzene and polychlorinated
biphenyls, more commonly known as PCBs), and two unintentional
byproducts of chemical production and the burning of
chlorinated substances (dioxins and furans).
The majority of these chemicals are organochlorines or
byproducts of their production or use.
Exposure to these 12 toxins has been shown to increase the
risk of cancer, hormonal imbalances, neurological disorders,
infertility, diabetes and a weakened immune system.
The Convention, adopted in May 2001 in Stockholm under the
auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),
has been signed so far by 151 countries and ratified by 97. It
entered into force in May 2004.
”Up until now, the only thing that has been done is an
inventory of the pollutants that have been detected, but
without determining the exact places where these emissions are
produced. We are going to call on the governments to report on
what they have done during this time,” Carlos Santos of REDES,
the Uruguayan affiliate of the worldwide environmental
coalition Friends of the Earth, told IPS.
The NGOs will also demand that the parties to the Convention
expand the list of prohibited chemicals to include pesticides
like fipronil, sulfuramide, lindane, endosulfan and 24D, which
are also considered persistent pollutants.
In Uruguay, for example, the government has banned the import
of all products included in the Convention, but others that
are no less dangerous continue to be used, activists report.
In an interview with IPS, María Cárcamo, a Uruguayan
representative of the Latin American branch of the
international Pesticides Action Network (RAP-AL), noted, ”The
government banned the insecticide mirex, and that's good, but
it wants to replace it with fipronil or sulfuramide, which
have the same characteristics, even though they aren't
encompassed by the agreement.”
In a recent RAP-AL report, Cárcamo stressed that the only ones
who gain from this practice ”are the companies that produce
and distribute these products, and unlike the case with mirex,
they enjoy the additional benefit of charging patent
The Latin American countries that have ratified the Stockholm
Convention are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico,
Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay.
From Apr. 15 to 22, IPEN waged a worldwide campaign it called
”Keep the Promise”, referring to the commitments adopted by
the countries that are parties to the Convention. Round table
discussions were held in numerous countries to present the
results of international research on POPs contamination.
The Global Egg Project involved taking samples from chicken
eggs in a number of different countries and having them
analysed in a laboratory in the Czech Republic.
In Uruguay, the tests revealed levels of PCBs and dioxins in
the southeastern town of Minas that were double the maximum
limits set by the European Union (EU) for these substances.
Eggs from free-range chickens were collected near two cement
factories in the area, one run by the Uruguayan state company
ANCAP, the other by the Spanish transnational corporation
CUCPSA, both potential sources of the toxic substances. Minas
was chosen as the base for the study because of the large
number of cases of hyperthyroidism reported there last year.
Cárcamo, who will be attending the Conference of Parties in
Punta del Este as an observer, plans to use the opportunity to
protest the planned installation of two pulp mills near the
western Uruguayan town of Fray Bentos, on the banks of the
Uruguay River, which forms the border with Argentina along
The two plants, both to be run by foreign companies -- ENCE of
Spain and Botnia of Finland -- will increase emissions of
dioxins and furans in Uruguay as byproducts of the industrial
processing of cellulose, she warned.
Argentina is also concerned about the installation of these
plants on the Uruguay River. Earlier this month, the governor
of the eastern province of Entre Ríos, Jorge Busti, presented
Argentine Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa with a comprehensive
report on the potential environmental repercussions of the
In Mexico, eggs gathered in the southeastern city of
Coatzacoalcos, home to a petrochemical complex, contained
dioxin levels six times greater than the EU limits. Mexico has
still not formed a committee to design a national
implementation plan, a requirement of all signatories to the
In Chile, testing revealed high levels of dioxins and furans
in eggs collected in regions where numerous cases of liver,
gallbladder and kidney cancer have been reported. RAP-Al and
the Alliance for a Better Quality of Life presented Chilean
President Ricardo Lagos with a letter signed by over 50 civil
society groups, with recommendations for living up to the
In January, Chilean environmentalists succeeded in getting the
government to order the closing of a cellulose plant in the
southern coastal city of Valdivia. The pulp mill was shown to
have caused the death of an alarming number of swans in a
nearby nature sanctuary. However, the factory has since
In Bolivia, the use of toxic agrochemicals has sparked growing
concern. In December 2004, three children died in La Paz after
being poisoned through contact with a chemical insecticide,
and in January of this year, seven campesinos (peasant
farmers) died after eating soup contaminated with a pesticide,
although it is still not clear how the chemical got into the