Switzerland has joined more than 121 other countries in signing up to a global treaty banning the use of 12 highly toxic chemicals. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants aims to reduce or eliminate altogether the use of the so-called "dirty dozen".This content was published on May 23, 2001 - 07:41
"Switzerland understands full well that the majority of environmental problems cannot be addressed by individual countries so we need to have international cooperation to address the issue of toxic chemicals," Beat Nobbs, head of the delegation in Sweden, told swissinfo.
The hit-list includes toxic chemicals such as DDT, PCBs, dioxins and furans, as well as other agro-chemicals implicated in causing cancer, birth defects and other illnesses in humans and animals.
The agreement was adopted on Wednesday, and must now be ratified by at least 50 countries, before it comes into effect - a process which could take several years. Once ratification has taken place, the production and use of most of the chemicals will be banned.
"The agreement should work closely with the Basel convention when it comes to removing stockpiles of these chemicals, especially pesticides," said Nobbs.
The Basel Convention, which was signed by 130 countries in 1989, was an agreement on how to dispose of hazardous waste. It also laid down controls for the transport of toxins across national boundaries.
Nobbs highlighted the fact that Switzerland "hosts a number of international chemical organisations, among which figures the secretariat of the Basel Convention."
Environmental groups have welcomed the treaty. Greenpeace said it was encouraged because "Finally, the global community has accepted the fact - which is more or less commonsense - that we cannot continue to attempt to manage persistent toxic substances.
However, spokesman, Kevin Stairs, was quoted as saying that "this treaty is only words on paper, and the real impact has to come from implementation, both the government authorities in their implementing legislation, forcing industry to make the necessary changes, and also industry itself."
The treaty makes provision for around 25 countries to continue using DDT to combat malaria in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines until they can develop safer solutions.
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