Media Release

Canada Signs and Ratifies Stockholm Convention on Toxic Substances

May 23 2001

Stockholm, Sweden. A three year global effort to eliminate some of the most dangerous human-made toxic chemicals was crowned with success today by the signing of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) by countries around the world, including Canada. The Stockholm Convention targets POPs, which persist in the environment for long periods of time, bioaccumulate up the food chain, travel long distances from their sources and may interfere with normal development in human and wildlife populations. Canadian environmental groups applaud the leadership of Canada by being the first country to ratify the Convention. This leadership was also evident throughout these negotiations, through its firm commitment to the financial mechanisms for developing countries established in the Convention and its contribution to science on POPs. Canada's northern areas and even southern communities are particularly sensitive to the effects of POPs. Evidence shows elevated levels of some POPs such as DDT, PCBs, etc. in the Canadian north, although they were regulated in Canada a number of years ago. "We applaud the Canadian government's support for a global effort that promotes the elimination and reduction of these substances," says Paul Muldoon, Executive Director for the Canadian Environmental Law Association and former member of the Canadian delegation to these negotiations. "We hope to see a significant reduction in levels of some of these substances over the next several decades." "Now that the global community recognizes how much POPs affect human health," stated Delores Broten, of Reach for Unbleached! and also a former member of the Canadian delegation, "Canada and other countries need to translate the Convention's obligations into domestic policies that actually eliminate persistent toxics substances from all our lives." Historically, this is the first Convention to give a significant role to the precautionary principle. This principle states that, where there is scientific evidence that an activity may pose a threat to human health and the environments, action may be undertaken even without full scientific evidence. The Convention outlines a goal of elimination of POPs, sets out a process to add new POPs to the global ban and supports the need for destruction of POPs wastes and stockpiles. Finally, the Convention establishes a financial and technical assistance mechanism for developing countries and countries in economic transition that would facilitate implementation of the Convention. POPs are mainly pesticides, industrial chemicals or by-products of industrial processes. Twelve POPs have been identified under the convention including DDT, chlordane, mirex, PCBs, hexachlorobenzene, dioxins and furans. The Convention will enter into force when 50 countries have ratified it, a process that could take three or four years.-30- For more information contact:Paul Muldoon Canadian Enviromental Law Association Toronto, Ontario, CANADA Tel.: 416-960-2284 ext. 219 Delores BrotenReach for Unbleached!Whaletown, British Columbia, CANADA Tel.: 250-935-6992Darryl Luscombe (in Stockholm)Greenpeace InternationalTel.: 011 46 70 608 7481 (cell)Angela RickmanSierra Club of CanadaOttawa, ON, CANADATel: 613-241-4611International POPs Elimination Network