Global Chemical Treaty Tests New US Leadership

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kristin Schafer 415-981-1771
Heather Pilatic 415-694-8596

Global Chemical Treaty Tests New US Leadership

Shift on pesticide lindane may signal more positive US role

WASHINGTON - Hundreds of government officials, industry groups, and public interest observers will
gather next week in Geneva to assess global progress on phasing out a set of
dangerous chemicals. Many are looking to the new U.S. Administration to demonstrate
renewed leadership in international efforts to address these priority pollutants.

“For toxic chemicals, this is the Obama Administration’s debut on the international
stage,” says Daryl Ditz of the Center for International Environmental Law. “The world
will be watching for signals that the U.S. will emerge as a strong leader, committed to
protecting children and future generations from chemical contamination.”

Governments that are party to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic
Pollutants (POPs) will convene May 4-8 for the fourth Conference of the Parties, or
COP-4. The treaty sets global phase out schedules for a targeted list of toxic chemicals
that build up in the food supply, accumulate in the tissue of humans and other animals,
persist in the environment for years and travel the globe on wind and water currents.

Under President Bush, the United States signed but never ratified the treaty, yet
participated in meetings as an active and influential observer.

A key focus of the Geneva meeting will be adding other pollutants to the original list of
12 POPs, which includes dioxins, PCBs, DDT, and others. An international scientific
review panel has recommended adding nine new chemicals to the treaty – each
warranting global action because of the danger they pose to human health and the
environment. Governments will now decide whether use of these chemicals will be
banned worldwide. Some of the chemicals being considered for addition include
pentabromodiphenyl ether, pentachlorobenzene, chlordecone and perfluorooctane
sulfonic acid (see below for link to full list).

The organochlorine pesticide lindane, nominated for addition to the treaty by Mexico,
provides one test for the Obama Administration. Lindane’s agricultural uses were
withdrawn in the U.S. in 2006, with its only remaining uses now being pharmaceutical
shampoos and lotions to control lice and scabies. Under the Bush Administration, the
U.S. government pressed for an exemption to allow continued pharmaceutical use of
lindane, while most other countries supported a full phaseout of the pesticide.

“We’ve heard the U.S. position on lindane is shifting under the new Administration to
support phaseout of all uses,” says Kristin Schafer of Pesticide Action Network. “This is
very good news – lindane production is extremely dirty, lindane-based products are
unnecessary and can be dangerous, and other countries have been using safer
alternatives for years.”

California phased out pharmaceutical uses of lindane in 2001, and Michigan is
considering similar restrictions. While the United States is expected to support listing of
lindane in the POPs Convention with no exemptions, the Food and Drug Administration
still allows pharmaceutical use here.

“Persistent chemicals like lindane are contaminating the Arctic environment and
poisoning the traditional foods of indigenous communities,” says Shawna Larson-
Carmen of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, who will be coordinating a delegation of
indigenous leaders at the Geneva meeting. “The United States must act now to phase
out use of these chemicals here at home and support a global ban as well. POPs
chemicals pose a serious threat to the health of families and communities that don’t
even use them – addressing this injustice has been a core purpose of the Stockholm
Convention from the beginning.”

Governments will also report in Geneva on progress toward phasing out the use of DDT
for malaria control. The iconic pesticide has been targeted for phaseout under the
treaty, with a limited exemption for malaria control under WHO guidelines for those
countries that demonstrate a need for its continued use. The international community
is encouraged to help those countries battling malaria to reduce their reliance on DDT
spraying by adopting more sustainable, effective solutions.

The Stockholm Convention meeting in Geneva will be immediately followed by another
important international chemical policy meeting, the International Conference on
Chemicals Management. Observers will closely watch positions of the United States in
this forum as well.

Available for interviews from the Geneva meeting
(email to arrange phone interviews):

Karl Tupper, Staff Scientist, Pesticide Action Network North America, karl@panna.org

Pam Miller, Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics,
pkmiller@akaction.net

Shawna Larson-Carmen, Environmental Justice Director at Alaska Community Action on
Toxics and staff member of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands,
shawna@akaction.org
Daryl Ditz, Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor, Center for International Environmental Law,
dditz@ciel.org
Joseph DiGangi, Ph.D., Director, Global Chemical Safety Program, Environmental Health
Fund, digangi@environmentalhealthfund.org


Resources:

Stockholm Convention documents re: recommended new chemicals:
http://chm.pops.int/Convention/POPsReviewCommittee/RecommendationsoftheP...
/tabid/440/language/en-US/Default.aspx

Pesticide Action Network information on lindane: www.panna.org/lindane

CIEL information on persistent organic pollutants and Stockholm Convention:
http://www.ciel.org/Chemicals/chem_POPs.html

New report: Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Arctic: http://www.akaction.org

Pesticide Action Network information on DDT use for malaria control, including
Pesticide Action Network Germany report on DDT and the Stockholm Convention:
www.panna.org/ddt

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PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America) works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five autonomous PAN Regional Centers worldwide, we link local and international consumer, labor, health, environment and agriculture groups into an international citizens' action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to ensure the transition to a just and viable society.

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