Many things came out of the recent UN Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs Convention (April 25-29, 2011), but the most valuable in many people’s opinion is the addition of Endosulfan to a growing list of highly dangerous chemicals, called by one pundit, “The worst of the worst.”
Endosulfan is a highly toxic, Class I pesticide. Like its closest relative, DDT, which was banned about 40 years ago based on severely detrimental health and environmental effects, endosulfan is an organochlorine, a class of pesticides known for their toxicity at every level in the living world. In fact, in 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said endosulfan’s health risks were actually more far-reaching than previously calculated or suspected.
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, also known as the “POPs Treaty”, has been trying since 1995 to protect the world’s population from chemicals and pesticides uses in agriculture and industry that are known, even at very low levels, to cause cancer, central nervous system (CNS) disorders even in mature individuals, immune system failures, reproductive disorders, and delay or complete absence of certain infant and child (physical and mental) developmental paradigms. These chemicals are suspected of causing autism, ADHD, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and Cerebral Palsy, to name a few.
POPs are persistent in the environment, building up in living organisms and demonstrating adverse effects on their health and development. POPs also move, traveling thousands of miles from their point of origin to infest and infect some of the last unspoiled wildernesses on the globe. For example, near the Arctic Circle, the presence of POPs are so prevalent that levels of HCH (Hexachlorocyclohexane), PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and endosulfan actually exceed those further south, even though the chemicals are not used in the Arctic.
In 1995, the Convention agreed to assess, over time, 12 chemicals, and it use its authority to create a global, legally binding entity aimed at removing said chemicals from use. Additions since then bring the total number of chemicals to 21. All 21 (not including recent additions) are slated for global phaseout, with some countries (and some corporations) dragging their feet over possible economic consequences.
Between 1998 and 2000, the Committee met five times to flesh out the Convention. In 2001, the Committee adopted its platform, grouping the targeted chemicals into three categories: pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex and toxaphene), industrial chemicals (hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs), and unintentionally produced POPs like dioxins and furans.
The Convention aims to reduce these chemicals while preventing the development of new “mirror” chemicals, which replace them. A mirror chemical uses the same types of ingredients in new formulations (for example, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, which are being replaced with HFCs).
The Convention also includes a mechanism for identifying additional POPs as time goes on – endosulfan being a case in point – and the criteria to be used to evaluate and/or eliminate them. This Convention was approved in May of 2004 and currently has 173 participating countries, including the EU.
April 2011’s meeting has effectively put endosulfan on a course that will largely eliminate it from global markets by 2012. The path that led to this decision was far from smooth, with India and several other developing nations insisting on exemptions that delay endosulfan’s removal over the next 11 years, allowing it to be used on 22 specific crops, including cotton, coffee, tea and tobacco. Some opponents have actually laid the endosulfan ban on the doorstep of certain EU manufacturers.
Why, one wonders, is India willing to allow this, after the dreadful example of Kerala (Kasargodu), where almost 5,000 individuals were identified as having suffered serious health effects from endosulfan spraying? In fact, one has only to look at the images of deformed babies and children to see what a nightmare Kerala is.
I guess money always talks louder than real life.
(Image courtesy endosulfanvictims.org and hinduonet.com)
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