Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are chemical substances that resist breakdown, and thus remain intact in the environment for long periods of time. Accumulating in fatty tissues, and increasing in concentration as they move up the food chain, POPs pose a significant risk to human health and wildlife. In addition, POPs are widely distributed in the environment because they are mobile, with the potential to be transported by air and water currents far from their original point of release.
POPS may cause an array of adverse health effects, including death, disease, and birth defects among humans and animals. Specific effects can include cancer, allergies and hypersensitivity, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders and disruption of the immune system.
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was adopted in May 2001 and opened for signature. On May 17, 2004, the Convention has come into effect to eliminate or reduce emissions of POPs into the environment. The Convention is an example of how cross-sectoral concerns and international responses can contribute to good health. The initial 12 POPs identified for priority action in this convention are aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene, dioxins and furans. Other POPs may be added at a later time. A health-related exemption for DDT will be granted in those countries that require it to control malarial mosquitoes.