American diplomats sign POPs treaty

Published July 1, 2001

American diplomats signed the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) treaty at a gathering in Stockholm, Sweden on May 21-23. The treaty bans or severely restricts 12 chemicals such as PCBs, DDT, and other toxins thought to adversely affect human health and wildlife. The treaty also calls for wealthy countries such as the United States to provide up to $150 million per year to developing countries to assist in their transition to alternative chemicals.

The inclusion of DDT in the “dirty dozen” is a source of controversy considering the chemical’s unique success in fighting malaria. (See “DDT Key to Third World’s War on Malaria,” this page.) The treaty provides limited exceptions allowing some DDT use in certain circumstances.

“With upwards of two million people dying every year from malaria, the Bush administration should aggressively work to lift numerous barriers facing poor nations seeking to use DDT for malaria control,” said Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Logomasini noted U.S. foreign aid officers have frequently pressured developing nations into not using DDT. “When used in small amounts in and around homes, DDT is an extremely effective, safe, and inexpensive way to prevent the spread of malaria. Since its introduction after World War II, the use of DDT to combat disease-carrying insects has saved hundreds of millions of lives. With DDT banned in many countries, malaria rates have skyrocketed around the world,” explained Logomasini.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWFN) applauded the POPs treaty as “good common sense.” Stated Kathryn Fuller, president of WWFN US, “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.”

The POPs treaty will become effective after it is ratified by 50 national governments. The process is likely to take two to three years.