Amendments to global treaty launched to eliminate nine toxic chemicals
Historic additions to Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants target once common pesticides and flame retardants
Geneva, 26 August 2010 – Today marks the entry into force of amendments adding nine new chemicals to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals found in some common consumer products today. They are distributed around the globe and are known to be accumulating in human and animal organisms, endangering the health and safety of humans and the environment.
“The inclusion of these 9 POPs under the Stockholm Convention demonstrates that Governments around the world are committed to reducing and eventually eliminating such chemicals throughout the global community, in order to boost public health, contribute to sustainable development and deliver wider Green Economy gains,” said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
The amendments to list additional persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Annexes A, B and/or C of the Stockholm Convention were adopted by the Conference of the Parties of the Convention at its fourth meeting in May 2009.
“By extending for the first time the scope of coverage of the Stockholm Convention, Governments have strengthened efforts to protect human health and raise chemicals issues to the top of the global agenda,” said Donald Cooper, Executive Secretary to the Stockholm Convention.
Many of the nine chemicals banned or being phased out under the new amendments are still widely used today as pesticides, flame retardants and in a number of other commercial uses.
The amendments add the following chemicals to Annexes A, B and/or C of the Convention: alpha hexachlorocyclohexane; beta hexachlorocyclohexane; chlordecone; hexabromobiphenyl; hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether (commercial octabromodiphenyl ether); lindane; pentachlorobenzene; perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooactane sulfonyl fluoride; and tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether (commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether).
To mark the entry into force of the amendments, the Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention is participating in the launch of the Sea Dragon, a scientific monitoring vessel, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Sea Dragon will set sail today for a half year-long voyage to document the extent of drifting plastic pollution and monitor deepwater fish for their POPs levels in the South Atlantic Ocean.
5 Gyres and Pangaea Explorations are sailing through the five subtropical gyres in the world to investigate the impact of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems. This expedition is the first to the South Atlantic Subtropical Gyre to explore the role drift plastics play in the bioaccumulation of POPs by marine life and the potential risk this poses to human health.
Dr. Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute and a director of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF), said“Our oceans, being downhill from everywhere, receive the waste of nations. As plastic waste flows through the world's watersheds, it absorbs hydrophobic compounds, like pesticides, PCBs, petroleum and other hydrocarbons, making plastic more toxic. Well over 300 marine species have been found to ingest plastic waste, including the toxins they carry. It is imperative that we understand the potential for plastic waste to pollute the fish we harvest to feed the world.”
The 5 Gyres expedition (a collaboration between the 5 Gyres Institute, Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Pangaea Explorations and ASR Limited) is a partner of Safe Planet: the United Nations Campaign for Responsibility on Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes, the global public awareness and outreach campaign of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
Note to Editors:
The Stockholm Convention targets certain hazardous pesticides and industrial chemicals that can kill people, damage the nervous and immune systems, cause cancer and reproductive disorders and interfere with normal infant and child development.
The nine new chemicals listed in Annexes A, B and C to the Stockholm Convention are:
· alpha hexachlorocyclohexane (a by-product of lindane, another new POP, and potentially carcinogenic to humans and adversely affects wildlife);
· beta hexachlorocyclohexane (shares the characteristics of alpha hexachlorocyclohexane);
· chlordecone (a pesticide classified as a possible human carcinogen and which is very toxic to aquatic organisms);
· hexabromobiphenyl (an industrial chemical which was used as a flame retardant, and which is classified as a possible human carcinogen);
· hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether (commercial octabromodiphenyl ether) (this industrial chemical is used as an additive flame retardant);
· lindane (an insecticide with broad applications such as seed, soil and wood treatment, which has toxic effects in laboratory animals and aquatic organisms; it will be allowed to use as a human health pharmaceutical to treat head lice and scabies);
· pentachlorobenzene (produced unintentionally and used as a chemical intermediate for the production of quintozene, and formerly in dyestuff carriers, as a fungicide and flame retardant, and very toxic to aquatic organisms);
· perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooactane sulfonyl fluoride (this extremely persistent chemical has several applications such as for electric and electronic parts, fire fighting foam, photo imaging, hydraulic fluids and textiles and has the specificity of binding to proteins in the blood and liver as opposed to other POPs which partition in the fatty tissues);
· tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether (commercial pentabromo-diphenyl ether) (this industrial chemical, used as an additive flame retardant, is toxic for wildlife).
The 12 initial POPs covered by the Convention include nine pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex and toxaphene); two industrial chemicals (PCBs as well as hexachlorobenzene, also used as a pesticide); and the unintentional by-products, most importantly dioxins and furans.
The entry into force of the amendments on 26 August 2010 applies to 152 Parties of the agreement. A Party may give notice that it is unable to accept the amendments by this date. No such notifications have been made.
The other 18 Parties, at the time they joined the Convention, indicated that they were not bound to any amendment to Annexes A, B or C. These Parties may opt into the amendments in future.
Sea Dragon Expedition:
The Expedition of the Sea Dragon partners are:
Safe Planet: the United Nations Campaign for Responsibility on Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes. This ambitious campaign for ensuring the safety of the environment and human health against hazardous chemicals and wastes shows how each of us can take responsibility for keeping our planet safe from these harmful substances. The Safe Planet Campaign was launched at the simultaneous extraordinary meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions in Bali, Indonesia, on 24 February 2010.
The Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF) is the authority on plastic marine pollution in the North Pacific Gyre, or the “Great Garbage Patch.” As the research partner of 5 Gyres, AMRF analyzes ocean samples collected on expeditions, studies fish for plastic ingestion and the accumulation of pollutants. 5Gyres and AMRF will co-publish and present all findings of the South Atlantic Gyre Expedition.
Pangaea Explorations strengthens the health of marine life through Exploration, Conservation and Education. Pangaea owns and operates the “Sea Dragon”, a 72-foot, steel hulled expedition sailing vessel designed for demanding ocean conditions. The vessel has rounded Cape Horn twice in two circumnavigations and has sailed over 70,000 km during the last 12 months.
ASR Limited is an environmental consulting and engineering company specializing in developing innovative solutions for the marine environment. ARS will produce educational media materials on the information collected during the expedition for internet display and classroom use.
Further information is available at
or by e-mailing
, UNEP Spokesperson and Head of Media, +254-20-762-3084, (m) +254-733-632-755,
, Senior Scientific Officer, Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention, UNEP, +41 22 917 8161,
, Press Focal Point/Public Information Officer, Joint Services of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, +41-22-917-8668; (m) +41-79-730-4495,