Meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions are underway in Geneva, Switzerland. In a significant development, Methoxychlor, UV-328 and flame retardant Dechlorane Plus is all set for inclusion in Stockholm Convention's list of hazardous POPs.The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) aims to protect human health and the environment from POPs such as pesticides, industrial chemicals, and their toxic by-products. The meetings commenced on May 1, 2023 and will conclude on May 12.
At the commencement of the meeting of the Stockholm Convention a decision was reached to add the pesticide Methoxychlor to its Annex A list of substances for global elimination, without exemptions. Methoxychlor is an organochlorine pesticide that is used as a substitute for DDT in agriculture and veterinary medicine. The chemical shows genotoxicity, reprotoxicity, and immunotoxicity, providing a strong basis for consensus among parties to list methoxychlor in Annex A for global phase-out without exemption. The listing of two other chemicals - the plastics additive UV-328 and the flame retardant Dechlorane Plus (commonly used in plastics) too were recommended for inclusion in the list of hazardous POPs which meet the criteria for global elimination, without exemptions.
More than 120 countries have agreed to add these two toxic plastic chemicals and a pesticide to the Convention’s list of substances for global elimination, but included exemptions that will permit continued use of the plastic chemicals at the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-11) to the Convention. It has been agreed that the chemicals, the plastic additive UV-328, the flame retardant Dechlorane Plus besides the Methoxychlor meet the Convention's criteria as POPs and there is a compelling scientific logic to ban them globally.
A study by International Pollutants Elimination Network with Arnika and Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand has found high levels of Dechlorane Plus in the blood, food chain, and communities of Thai plastic e-waste workers. Dechlorane Plus often serves as a flame retardant in plastics used for electronics and the auto industry, but the study showed that when these toxic plastics are dismantled for recycling, e-waste workers suffer significant exposures to the toxic flame retardant. Compared to a reference group of nearby organic farm workers, on average the waste workers blood contained 40 times higher levels of Dechlorane Plus.
The study underlined the importance of transparency in the regulation of chemicals in electronic and plastic waste.
The text of the Stockholm Convention was adopted by the Conference of the Plenipotentiaries (Stockholm, 22 May 2001) and entered into force on May 17, 2004. The text was subsequently amended by the Conference of the Parties at its fourth meeting (Geneva, 4 - 8 May 2009), fifth meeting (Geneva, 25 - 29 April 2011), sixth meeting (Geneva, 28 April - 10 May 2013), seventh meeting (Geneva, 4 - 15 May 2015), its eighth meeting (Geneva, 24 April - 5 May 2017) and at its ninth meeting (Geneva, 29 April – 10 May). It was last revised in 2019. India signed it on May 14, 2002 and ratified it on January 13, 2006. It entered into force on April 13, 2006 for India.
For the development of the National Implementation Plan (NIP) under the Convention, the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the National Focal Point (NFP) for the Stockholm Convention works closely with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Ministry of Agriculture-the nodal ministry for dealing with pesticides, the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers where the Department of Chemical and Petrochemical is responsible for policy, planning, development and regulation of the chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries, the Ministry of Power dealing with PCB in the power sector, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) which determines and manages the risks from chemicals in consumer products and foods, the various State Health Departments which controls shipment, storage and distribution of DDT authorized for use for public health purposes and with the Ministry of Science & Technology through their research institutions.
India's NIP notes the growing concern over a particular class of POPs that exert biological effects on health by disruption of the hormone (endocrine) system. In human beings possible inter-linkages have been found between POPs and health whereby studies indicate that POPs could possibly cause cancer, birth defects, fertility problems, a greater susceptibility to disease and could even diminish intelligence. Other research points to significant neuro-behavioral abnormalities as a result of exposure to dioxins and PCBs. Reduced intellectual performance has been measured in both monkeys and children who have been exposed to PCBs. It has taken cognisance of the studies that demonstrate a correlation between exposure to PCBs and dioxins and the incidence of a variety of reproductive problems including infertility. POPs have been detected in human and animal blood and tissues in India and in all quarters of the environment and in food.
Pal Gangwar, Additional Secretary, Hazardous Substances Management
Division, Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is
the National Focal Point (NFP) for the Stockholm Convention. He is also the Basel Convention Competent authority (CA) and Rotterdam Convention's Official contact point.
India's NIP reveals that the
major contribution of POPs like PCDD/DF emission is from waste
incineration and ferrous and non-ferrous metal production categories
followed by heat and power generation sector. Waste incineration has
66.75% share of the total annual releases. The second highest source is
ferrous and non-ferrous metal production. Copper recycling is the most
leading industrial activity contributing to the PCDD/DF releases. These
are the most important sectors that will require special attention and
control. The highest amount of PCDD/DF is released into residues 63.12%,
followed by air emission which accounts for 32.66% of the total
releases. Main source categories are waste incineration, ferrous and
non-ferrous production, heat and power generation, production of
minerals, transport, uncontrolled combustion processes, production of chemicals, consumer goods and disposal/ landfill. Contrary to these findings and the provisions of the Stockholm Convention, governments in India are building some 250 waste incineration plants to burn mixed municipal waste laden with plastic and produce electricity. This has been revealed by R. K Singh, Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
In such a backdrop, the inclusion of these chemicals in the list of hazardous POPs will alert every worker and community about the toxic chemicals which threaten their bodies, their food, and their health throughout the plastic waste stream. It will help governments enact laws that can prevent contamination of human body and the food chain.
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