Bush support for Toxic Chemicals Treaty is a 'good start,' WWF says

World Wildlife Fund praised President Bush's announcement that he will sign the treaty on persistent organic pollutants as a good start toward banishing some of the world's most toxic chemicals.

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2001 — World Wildlife Fund praised President Bush's announcement that he will sign the treaty on persistent organic pollutants as a good first step toward banishing some of the world's most toxic chemicals from the face of the Earth.

The United Nations Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) will be signed by diplomats from around the world in Stockholm, Sweden May 21-23. The treaty bans or severely restricts 12 of the world's most toxic chemicals such as PCBs, DDT and dioxins that can wreak havoc in human and animal tissue, damaging the nervous and immune systems and causing reproductive and developmental disorders and cancer.

"This is an excellent treaty with broad support from industry, environmental organizations and the public, and we are gratified that the President is taking the first step toward bringing it into force," said Kathryn Fuller, president of World Wildlife Fund. "We now look to President Bush for support in ensuring that the treaty is ratified by the U.S. Senate and fully funded through the Global Environment Facility (GEF)."

POPs are chemical compounds and mixtures with four main properties: they are extremely toxic; they break down in the body and environment extremely slowly; they build up in the body fat of animals and humans; and they can travel thousands of miles in the oceans and the atmosphere. They are pesticides such as DDT and chlordane, industrial chemicals such as PCBs, and industrial byproducts such as dioxins and furans.

"The Bush Administration's decision today is good common sense, given the widespread support for the treaty among governments, the chemicals industry and WWF, as well as other environmental and public health-focused organizations," said Brooks Yeager, WWF's vice president for global threats. During the 1998-2000 negotiations, Yeager was the U.S. government's chief negotiator on the POPs Treaty as the State Department's deputy assistant secretary for the environment.

The Stockholm POPs treaty will enter into force after it is ratified by 50 governments, which could take about 2-3 years, although WWF is urging governments to do so within one year. The critical issues for the United States include providing financial assistance to the Global Environment Facility to assist developing countries in implementing the treaty, and taking more aggressive action domestically to phase out toxic chemicals like dioxins.

"The coming together of industry, environmental and government officials around the POPs treaty is a model that would serve well for the Bush Administration to emulate in resolving other important environmental issues," said Clifton Curtis, Director of WWF's Global Toxic Chemicals Initiative. "With elimination as its central goal, the Stockholm Convention on POPs sends a clear message that some chemicals are so dangerous that they cannot be managed. Nobody on Earth is safe from these chemicals, from the Equator to the Poles."

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