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Legislation to Reduce Global Persistent Organic Pollutants Receives Praise

Release Date: 12/19/2005
Contact Information: Eryn Witcher, (202) 564-4355/ witcher.eryn@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C.-Dec. 19, 2005) Potential for improving the health of our national and global environment took a significant step forward with the introduction of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to allow the United States to join three international environmental agreements to address persistent organic pollutants (POPs), some of the most toxic and highly persistent substances found in various parts of the world.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today commended Rep. Paul Gillmor, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, for submitting legislation that would allow the United States to join the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, and the POPs Protocol to the Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollutants. This legislation, coupled with recently introduced Agriculture Committee bills, fills the gaps necessary in domestic law for the United States to fulfill the terms of these international agreements.

"As our science expands, so does our understanding that certain pollutants know no political boundaries," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Implementing these important global environmental agreements is a priority for President Bush and EPA, and I appreciate Chairman Gillmor's leadership in moving them forward. The United States has already taken extensive steps to address these environmental threats, and through these agreements, we can further protect the health, not only of our fellow Americans, but of all those who share our planet."

Due to their unique characteristics, POPs, which include substances such as DDT, PCBs and dioxins, are chemicals of both local and global concern. POPs are toxic, persist in the environment for long periods of time, and accumulate as they move up the food chain.

The United States has worked closely with other partner countries to reach a broad consensus on these ambitious pollution-reducing plans. The agreements will have wide-standing environmental and health benefits, illustrating America's leading role to reduce or eliminate certain POPs and their releases on a global basis.

The Stockholm Convention is intended to eliminate or restrict the production, use and/or release of 12 chemicals that, due to their persistence in the environment, can affect human health throughout the globe, regardless of the location of their use. The convention obligates all participating countries to take measures to eliminate or restrict the production, use and trade of intentionally produced POPs; to develop action plans to address the release of byproduct POPs, such as using best available techniques to reduce missions of POPs from new sources; and to address the safe handling and disposal of POPs stockpiles and wastes. The Stockholm Convention also includes a science-based procedure for the international community to add new chemicals in the future.

The LRTAP POPs Protocol is a regional agreement that contains obligations similar to the POPs Convention related to eliminating or restricting the production, use, and/or release of the same 12 chemicals covered by the POPs Convention and four additional chemicals.

The Rotterdam PIC Convention was developed to promote informed risk-based decision making in the trade of hazardous chemicals and pesticides. It requires participating countries to exchange health and safety information and communicate important regulatory decisions. This information will enable importing countries to make informed choices about importation of hazardous chemicals into their country and helps each country ensure that exports comply with their import decisions. The Rotterdam Convention also establishes an international information system that empowers governments and citizens to reach their own risk-based decisions relating to public health and the environment.

More information on these three agreements is available at: http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/international/pops.htm