Sierra Club urges senators to approve treaty to eliminate toxic chemicals, protect public health

Senate must first address future harmful pesticides and chemicals

provided by Sierra Club

he Sierra Club last month asked Senators to take a major step towards protecting families and wildlife around the world from dangerous chemicals. On the International Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Elimination Day of Action, the Senate is poised to help rid the planet of harmful chemicals and pesticides that can cause a variety of health ailments, from reproductive disorders to harming nervous system development. Congress must not only approve the Stockholm Convention that the Bush Administration has signed, it must also assure that such dangerous chemicals can be quickly and efficiently eliminated in the future.

    “These chemicals are among the most poisonous substances humans created,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “They can cause brain damage and cancer, impair the immune system, interfere with hormones, and produce genetic mutations that can be passed to our children. We are hopeful that the Senate will work to get these poisons out of our air, water and food as quickly as possible.”

    The Senate is poised to ratify the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants treaty, which phases out twelve of the worst pesticides and industrial chemicals and provides a process to add other dangerous chemicals to the treaty in the future. But Congress must also develop methods for dealing with chemicals that are added to the POPS treaty in the future.

    Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) has proposed a measure to eliminate the use of future POPs. Senator Jeffords' measure allows the Environmental Protection Agency to add future chemicals to the Stockholm Convention without chemical-by-chemical Congressional approval. The Bush administration has also proposed a plan for dealing with POPs, but the Administration's approach would drastically slow down the process by requiring an act of Congress before the United States can act on new POPs.

    POPs remain in the environment long after their release. Generally released to the air, POPs end up in our lakes, rivers, and seas, in the soil and plant life, and, ultimately, in the food chain. POPs are produced either as products (like pesticides), or as by-products (like dioxins) when medical, industrial, or municipal wastes are burned.

    The Stockholm Convention on POPs calls for outright banning and destruction of these dangerous chemicals. The treaty is designed to eliminate or severely restrict production and use of these very dangerous pesticides and industrial chemicals; ensure environmentally sound management or destruction of POPs waste and stockpiles; and prevent the emergence of new chemicals with POPs-like characteristics. The treaty also commits participating countries to provide developing countries with significant financial and technical support so that they can successfully implement treaty provisions.