Wednesday, May 4, 2011

‘Poisons without passports’

ENVIRONMENTAL groups have appealed to the Philippine delegation to a major intergovernmental assembly in Switzerland to “keep the promise” of protecting humans and the ecosystems from very dangerous chemicals.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) called for “strong and active” Philippine participation at the Fifth Conference of Parties (COP5) of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), held in Geneva in the last days of April.

POPs are very toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and other adverse health problems. They are known as “poisons without passports,” travelling vast distances via air and water, persisting in the environment for a long time and bioaccumulating in humans and animals.

In a letter sent to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB), the groups expressed hope that the Philippines will join other countries in guaranteeing that the goal of the Stockholm Convention, also known as the POPs treaty, is “faithfully kept and advanced at COP5.”

Leading the government delegation to COP5 are Ambassador Evan Garcia of the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to UN in Geneva and Renato Cruz, chief of the DENR-EMB Air Quality Division.

“We appeal to our delegates to keep the promise of the POPs treaty of protecting the public health and the environment from these extremely harmful chemicals through their strong and active participation in the crucial meeting of parties,” the groups said.

“We specifically urge our country to actively back the proposal to list endosulfan, a highly hazardous pesticide, in Annex A of the treaty for global elimination,” they further said.

“We further hope that our delegation will take the right decision to support the recommendations on the elimination of POP-BDE from waste and recycling streams,” they added.

BDEs, or brominated diphenyl ethers, are chemical flame retardants targeted for eradication under the Stockholm Convention.

A global expert panel known as the POPs Review Committee (POPRC) has recommended that BDEs be eliminated from waste streams before recycling or disposal operations inasmuch as “failure to do so will inevitably result in wider human and environmental contamination and the dispersal” of this POP.

The committee also recommended that countries urgently establish and apply screening techniques and separation of materials containing POP-BDE in order to stop the recycling of these materials and to safely store indicative POP-BDE-containing materials and/or articles when screening and separation techniques are not readily available.

Removing BDEs from products such as electronic and electrical equipment, home and office furniture, drapes and carpets from the waste and recycling streams would help in reducing occupational and environmental risks among recyclers and their communities, the groups said.

Citing the “San Antonio Statement on Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants” by prominent scientists, the groups said that “there is a lack of capacity to handle electronic waste in an environmentally-sound manner in almost all developing and transition countries, leading to the release of hazardous substances that cause harm to human health and the environment.”

“Flame retardants with POP characteristics should not be permitted to be subjected to disposal operations that may lead to recovery, recycling, reclamation, direct reuse, or alternative uses of the substances,” the scientists said.

“It is our hope that COP5 will take decisive actions to implement the Stockholm Convention more forcefully to make sure that the present generation as well as the succeeding ones will no longer suffer from POP exposures, injuries and diseases,” the groups stated.


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