pact to start up
GENEVA, Aug 5 (Reuters) - A
pact aimed at eliminating long-term pollutants like pesticides
and solvents that can cause birth defects will go into force
across much of Europe and Canada in October, a U.N. agency
said on Tuesday.
The announcement from the world body's
Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) said this followed ratification by France,
the 16th country out of 35 original signatories to
have the 1998 agreement approved by its
The agreement, the Protocol on Persistent
Organic Pollutants or POPS, is likely to be joined by the United States --
despite the reluctance of the current U.S. administration to sign up to
multilateral environmental accords, officials said. It
was signed under President Bill Clinton, as were other such
accords later renounced by Bush.
"But the current
administration and U.S. companies are making clear they are
interested in being involved in future negotiations on what
other chemicals might be added to the protocol," one ECE
Ratification processes in
Congress are moving ahead with the support of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are expected to be
completed within the next few months, the source
The Protocol, the sixth of its type on
long-range pollution across borders reached under the ECE umbrella, currently
covers 11 pesticides, two industrial
chemicals containing solvents, and three by-products. All the pollutants remain
for decades or centuries in the environment after use and are
absorbed into living organisms through the soil, water or air.
Scientists say they can affect physical and intellectual
development and damage immune systems.
Infants in the womb and
new-born babies are especially at risk from exposure in the
placenta or from breast milk.
Several European countries and Canada, who had
been pushing for an agreement for years, decided to go for a regional accord
when it became clear a global pact would take much longer. Under the Protocol,
forerunner for the 2001 Stockholm agreement on a world-wide POPS pact which still needs 17
ratifications to go into force, some products are banned outright,while others
are gradually phased out.
The pact also sets strict
rules and volume limits for the incineration of municipal,
hazardous and medical waste.
The Stockholm accord, which
needs a further 17 ratifications to go into force, will not
initially cover the wide range of products targeted by the ECE
protocol because some POPS, like insecticides, are still
deemed vital in poorer countries.
The 16 signatories of the Protocol so far
are Austria, Bulgaria, Canada,
Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg,
Netherlands, Norway, Moldova,
Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland.
The ECE said they will meet in Geneva in
December to review the pact and consider the addition of other
substances to the list of targeted