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JUNE 29, 1998

2:01 PM

CONTACT:  Greenpeace USA
Mary MacNutt: (416) 271-8408
Dwight Mims: (202) 255-9561

Greenpeace Vigil At Start Of Montreal Negotiations Sends Message Of Hope For A Toxic Free Future
MONTREAL - June 29 - Fifty women embracing symbolic pregnant bellies welcomed international government delegations beginning negotiations on a treaty to deal with persistent organic pollutants (POPs), poisonous chemicals that are contaminating food around the world. The action highlights both the threat these toxic pollutants pose to future generations and the hope that these negotiations promise. The women participating in the action maintained a silent vigil for two hours, as delegates entered the conference centre to begin their deliberations.

"We are here to greet the negotiators, but also to remind them of their grave responsibilities," said Morag Simpson, Greenpeace Canada Toxics Campaigner. "They must agree on an effective program of global action to eliminate POPs so that every pregnant woman in the world can know that her womb can again become a toxic-free zone."

Many of the most toxic chemicals under discussion during these negotiations are passed from mother to child in the womb and interfere with optimal development of the fetus. POPs are also known to cross the placenta from mother to fetus and can pass to the nursing infant through breast milk. They are linked to a wide array of health problems: falling sperm counts, rising rates of breast and testicular cancer, behavior disorders, immune system changes and others.

The United Nations-sponsored negotiations starting in Montreal this week mark an historic occasion: the first effort to control a class of manmade toxic substances on a global basis. Action will focus initially on twelve pollutants of special concern including the notorious dioxins, furans, PCBs and DDT. The initial twelve are all chlorine-containing chemicals that are long lasting in the environment and travel long distances on air currents.

Many scientists believe there are no safe levels of POPs, hence, they must be completely eliminated.

Greenpeace is the leading independent organization which uses peaceful and creative activism to protect the global environment.


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