U.N. Expert Committee Acts on Hazardous Chemicals in Plastics
Gothenburg, Sweden - A U.N. expert committee to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) has evaluated two chemical additives to plastics and determined that only one qualifies to move forward in the process to be listed for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention.
The committee failed to reach a consensus that the flame retardant the chemical Dechlorane plus (DP) is likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects, such that global action is warranted. DP is an example of a substance that never should have been produced as it is a slight modification of mirex – one of the original dirty dozen substances listed in the Convention. It has been produced since the 1960s and used in plastics for computers and televisions, coatings for wires and cables, and polyurethane foam. It has been found in human milk, serum, and cord blood and can cause neurotoxicity, liver impairment, and endocrine disruption.
“We are appalled that the Committee allowed a few individuals to de-rail progress toward elimination of this dangerous chemical and failed to consider properly the body of evidence on its adverse effects. It is critical that the global community swiftly eliminates the manufacturing and use of this dangerous chemical. Dechlorane plus is currently marketed as a replacement for the flame retardant decaBDE and as a substitute for mirex. This is a stark example of a regrettable, ill-advised substitution. Studies show rising levels of DP, perhaps indicating that DP is being increasingly used as a replacement for decaBDE. DP threatens the development and health of our next generations and concerted international action must be taken to prevent further harm,” said Pamela Miller, IPEN Co-Chair and Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. The Committee will re-evaluate Dechlorane plus at its next meeting in September 2021.
In response to stated plans by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to strengthen ties with a trade association whose members continue to produce highly hazardous pesticides harmful to human health and the enviroment, IPEN and over three hundred other organizations in over 60 countries have sent a letter to Director-General Qu Dongyu opposing the alliance. The proposed collaboration with CropLife — whose members include BASF, Bayer Crop Science, Corteva Agriscience, FMC and Syngenta, and who combined make more than one-third of their sales income from highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) — directly undermines the FAO's priority of a progressive ban on HHPs, as well as its role as a global leader supporting innovative approaches to agricultural production and advancing food security, sustainability, and resilience.
The letter notes that CropLife members specifically target markets in developing and emerging countries where the regulation and commercialization of pesticides are more weakly controlled, and that sales of HHPs are greater in these parts of the world where harms to human health and the environment are worse. Farmers, agricultural workers, and those living in rural communities suffer increased rates of a broad array of health harms, and decimation of beneficial insects and other organisms have been linked to HHPs.
The participation of non-professional scientists in scientific research or monitoring efforts can empower grassroots organizations and movements into advancing a sustainable and toxics-free future for all.
Citizen science, as it is generally called, has become a strategic tool enabling communities impacted by chemical and waste problems to empower themselves with data and information that can be used to assert their rights to a healthy and safe environment. A four-part online regional conference commencing today will put a spotlight on the application of citizen science in addressing such problems affecting mostly poor and marginalized communities, with children, pregnant women and workers at greater risk. It will bring together over 70 citizen science advocates, practitioners and learners from 11 countries.
The International Pollutants Elimination Network - Southeast and East Asia (IPEN-SEA) Virtual Conference that is taking place amid the COVID-19 pandemic is co-organized by Nexus3 Foundation-Indonesia, EcoWaste Coalition-Philippines and the Ecological Alert and Recovery- Thailand with support from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and IPEN. “Through the years, citizen science has developed into a practical and potent tool for helpless victims who often suffer in silence from the destructive pollution caused by powerful commercial and industrial interests,” noted Penchom Saetang, Executive Director of EARTH and a citizen science practitioner for over 20 years.