The Stockholm Convention on POPs

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was adopted by the Conference of Parties at Stockholm in 2001. The treaty entered into force in 2004.

The Stockholm Convention on POP

It is a multilateral convention under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which seeks to protect human health and environment from the harmful effects of certain chemicals which are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

They are organic chemical substances which possess a set of physical and chemical properties such that when they are released into the atmosphere/environment, they:

  • Remain intact, without getting degraded, for exceptionally long periods of time (several years)
  • Become widely distributed throughout the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water and, most notably, air
  • Accumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain

They are highly toxic to both humans and wildlife. They are known to cause serious damage to human health including birth defects, cancers, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, weakening of the immune system leading to a greater susceptibility to diseases, and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. Some of them are considered to be endocrine disrupters, which can damage the reproductive and immune systems by altering the hormonal balance of the exposed individuals as well as their offspring. They are also known to cause developmental defects

Human activities of the past several decades have led to the release of POPs into the environment. These chemicals are now found all around the globe, distributed over large regions including those regions where POPs have never been used. The extensive contamination of the environment and living organisms, including many foodstuffs, with these chemicals, has resulted in a sustained exposure of many species, including humans, for time periods spanning generations which led to both acute as well as chronic health effects.

POPs tend to concentrate in living organisms through a process known as bioaccumulation. Though most of them are not soluble in water, they are readily soluble in fatty tissues where their concentrations can become magnified by up to 70,000 times the background levels

Owing to their ability to travel longer distances, no government acting alone can protect its citizens and/or its environment from the harmful effects of POPs.

The initial 12 POPs

Initially, 12 POPs have been recognized as causing adverse effects on humans and the ecosystem. They were placed in 3 categories as:

  • Pesticides: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene;
  • Industrial chemicals: hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and
  • By-products: hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF), and PCBs.

Download The Stockholm Convention on POPs PDF

List of New POPs

Nine new POPs have been added to the list of POPs under Stockholm Convention at the CoP held in 2009. Annexures A, B, and C were amended to include the following chemicals as POPs

  • Pesticides: chlordecone, Alpha Hexachlorocyclohexane, Beta Hexachlorocyclohexane, lindane, Pentachlorobenzene;
  • Industrial chemicals: Hexabromobiphenyl, Hexabromodiphenyl Ether and Heptabromodiphenyl Ether, Pentachlorobenzene, Perfluorooctane Sulphonic Acid, its salts and Perfluorooctane Sulphonyl Fluoride, Tetrabromodiphenyl Ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether; and
  • By-products: Alpha Hexachlorocyclohexane, Beta hexachlorocyclohexane, and Pentachlorobenzene.

At its fifth meeting held in 2011, the CoP adopted an amendment to the Annex A to the Stockholm Convention to include technical endosulfan and its isomers in the list of POPs with a specific exemption.

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