Trade in some of the chemicals can amount to billions of dollars a year, but countries at the conference in Geneva agreed they are so dangerous that alternatives must be found. “Just five years after this convention came into force, we will have nine new chemicals added to the list of those that the world community agrees we need to control and ultimately get rid of,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, which hosted the conference.
Donald Cooper, executive secretary of the Stockholm Convention, set out why the banned substances were exceptionally dangerous: They cross national boundaries and are found everywhere; they persist for long periods in the atmosphere, soil and water, taking years to degrade; they accumulate in bodies of people and animals; and they accumulate in food chains.
The chemicals can damage reproduction, mental capacity and growth and cause cancer. One of the newly proscribed ones is a pesticide called Lindane. It has been replaced in agriculture, but in some countries still is used to tackle head lice and so will be phased out over five years. Another, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) appears in a wide range of products, including electronics components and fire-fighting foam. With no alternatives to some of its applications, it will be restricted rather than eliminated immediately.
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