Reuters: UN Env Prg agree ban "dirty dozen" chems

Gary Greenberg Gary.Greenberg at Duke.edu
Sun Dec 10 07:23:23 EST 2000

Delegates Agree on Chemicals Ban

Updated 2:33 AM ET December 10, 2000

By SUSANNA LOOF, Associated Press Writer 

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - Negotiators for more than 100 nations
reached an agreement for a global ban on 12 highly toxic chemicals early
Sunday after extending a final U.N. summit on the issue into a seventh
day with all-night talks. 

"People are quite pleased with it. Everything is in it," Michael
Williams, a spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program, said
of the treaty to ban the chemicals dubbed the "dirty dozen" for their
persistence and harmful effects. 

The chemicals include dioxins and PCBs. They have been linked to cancer,
birth defects and other genetic defects, and are particularly dangerous
because they dissolve slowly and travel easily - through breast milk,
among other things. 

"It's a strong treaty. It's a real solid foundation for the future,"
said Clifton Curtis, an official with the World Wildlife Fund, which
participated in the U.N.-sponsored negotiations among 122 countries as
an observer. 

Participants approved the agreement shortly after dawn, after prolonging
a meeting that had been scheduled to end Saturday, Williams said. 

The treaty is to be signed in May in Stockholm, Sweden, and must be
ratified by at least 50 countries before it can take effect. 

The Johannesburg session, with some 600 delegates, was the fifth and
final meeting for negotiations on the agreement, which began in 1998 in

The most contentious issues were provisions for expansion of the treaty
to include other chemicals and a mechanism for industrialized nations to
pay about $150 million a year to help developing countries use cleaner
but costlier options. 

Some of the chemicals are already banned in industrialized countries.
But for many developing nations, chemicals like DDT provide a cheap and
effective way to wipe out mosquitos and prevent the more immediate
danger of malaria - hence the need for richer countries to pay for

Developing countries wanted a new mechanism for payments from the donor
countries, which wanted to stick with the existing Global Environment
Fund, or GEF. Eventually, the treaty assigned the GEF as a temporary
mechanism, but added conditions how the fund must improve its work,
officials said. 

The European Union wanted "precautionary" language - which specifies how
the treaty can be expanded to include other chemicals - to be included
throughout the document. The United States wanted it only in the
preamble and called for stricter scientific criteria than those
preferred by the EU. 

Curtis said the compromise reached Sunday contained stronger language
than the World Wildlife Fund had expected it would. "The word precaution
appears several times in the treaty," he said, adding that it was
spelled out in the section about adding new chemicals. 

Gary N. Greenberg, MD MPH    Sysop / Moderator Occ-Env-Med-L MailList
gary.greenberg at duke.edu     Duke Occupat, Environ, Int & Fam Medicine
OEM-L Maillist Website:                      http://occhealthnews.com


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