"In addition to producing death and sickness through direct contact, many highly toxic chemicals and pesticides persist for years in the environment, where they cause long-term damage to human health and to nature," said Mr. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is sponsoring the negotiations. "These substances travel readily across international borders to even the most remote region, making this a global problem that requires a global solution," he said.
A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that exposure to very low doses of certain POPs - which are among the most toxic substances ever created - can lead to cancer, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, diseases of the immune system, reproductive disorders, and interference with normal infant and child development.
Another concern behind the treaty negotiations is the growing accumulation of unwanted and obsolete stockpiles of pesticides and toxic chemicals, particularly in developing countries. Dump sites and toxic drums from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s are now decaying and leaching chemicals into the soil and poisoning water resources, wildlife, and people. A great deal of infrastructure and equipment such as electrical transformers and capacitors are also at or near the end of their useful lives and may leak dangerous chemicals such as PCBs.
The Montreal talks will focus on a list of 12 POPs: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, dioxins, endrin, furans, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, PCBs, and toxaphene. Scientific criteria will be developed for identifying other POPs that may be added to the list later.
The second round of talks is tentatively scheduled for 8 - 12 February 1999; the negotiations are expected to conclude by the year 2000.
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UNEP News Release 1998/65