From October 9-13, the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) convened in Rome to review toxic chemicals for global regulation and eventually elimination. The POPRC is the expert scientific committee of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The Stockholm Convention is the only legally binding international treaty to eliminate the world’s most dangerous chemicals. ACAT Executive Director Pamela Miller participates in the deliberations of the POPRC and has been involved in the negotiation and implementation of the Convention since 1997, representing Alaska and the Arctic.
The objective of the Stockholm Convention is to protect human health and the environment from harmful exposures to persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including pesticides and other industrial chemicals that disproportionally affect Alaska and the Arctic. This year’s meeting focused on two sets of toxic chemicals: a large group of PFAS “forever chemicals” PFCAs (perfluoro carboxylic acids) and the group of plastic additives medium chain chlorinated paraffins (MCCPs). These two groups of highly hazardous chemicals meet the criteria for chemicals which should be eliminated globally.
After the convening of the POPRC, the expert committee highly recommended the two chemical groups should be eliminated globally, and additionally moved the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos closer to a global ban. PFCAs, a subclass of PFAS “forever chemical” used in personal care products and cleaning products, are associated with adverse health effects including toxicity to liver, thyroid, and harm to development and reproduction. Medium chain chlorinated paraffins are used as flame retardants and plasticizers. They pose significant health risks, including adverse effects on the liver, kidney, and thyroid glands. Chlorpyrifos is a toxic pesticide, a potent developmental neurotoxic chemical that causes reduced IQ, loss of memory, and attention deficit disorders.
Pamela Miller, Executive Director of ACAT and Co-Chair of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) said, “It is encouraging to see these two groups of chemicals, PFAS and MCCPs, being recommended for global elimination, but we remain concerned about exemptions. To prevent the perpetuation of harm to workers and communities throughout the world, we remain opposed to exemptions that would allow continued use and production of these chemicals. As they are among the most dangerous chemicals known, they should be fully phased out as quickly as possible.” ACAT is a member of IPEN, a global network of more than 600 environmental health and justice organizations working in 120 countries.
ACAT has been instrumental in achieving global bans on chemicals that are ubiquitous and harm Arctic ecosystems and Indigenous Peoples. Through the process of global distillation, ocean and wind currents usher toxic contaminants to the Arctic where they are trapped by cooler climates. Transportation and bioaccumulation of POPs present hazards to the health and cultures of Indigenous Peoples of Alaska and the Arctic. Arctic Indigenous Peoples have some of the highest levels of persistent pollutants of any population on earth. The Preamble of the Stockholm Convention highlights that “Arctic ecosystems and Indigenous communities are particularly at risk.”