Persistent Organic Pollutants: A Global Issue, A Global Response
This page was created:
- to raise awareness about the health and environmental impacts of persistent organic pollutants (POPs),
- to show what actions the United States and some other countries have already taken to address these pollutants, and
- to describe the actions set into motion by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants Exit to address this issue globally.
The page explains the importance of the Stockholm Convention, a legally binding international agreement finalized in 2001. In the Stockholm Convention, participating governments agreed to take actions to reduce or eliminate the production, use, and/or release of certain of these pollutants.
- What Are POPs?
- What Domestic Actions Have Been Taken to Control POPs?
- How Do POPs Affect People and Wildlife?
- The Great Lakes: A Story of Trials and Triumphs
- Alaska: POPs in America’s Arctic
- The Stockholm Convention
- Table: The "Dirty Dozen"
- What Has the United States Done to Address POPs Globally?
A Global Issue
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment around the world. Because they can be transported by wind and water, most POPs generated in one country can and do affect people and wildlife far from where they are used and released. They persist for long periods of time in the environment and can accumulate and pass from one species to the next through the food chain. To address this global concern, the United States joined forces with 90 other countries and the European Community to sign a groundbreaking United Nations treaty Exit in Stockholm, Sweden, in May 2001. Under the treaty, known as the Stockholm Convention, countries agreed to reduce or eliminate the production, use, and/or release of 12 key POPs (see box), and specified under the Convention a scientific review process that has led to the addition of other POPs chemicals of global concern.
Many of the POPs included in the Stockholm Convention are no longer produced in this country. However, U.S. citizens and habitats can still be at risk from POPs that have persisted in the environment from unintentionally produced POPs that are released in the United States, from POPs that are released elsewhere and then transported here (by wind or water, for example), or from both. Although most developed nations have taken strong action to control POPs, a great number of developing nations have only fairly recently begun to restrict their production, use, and release.
The Stockholm Convention adds an important global dimension to our national and regional efforts to control POPs. Though the United States is not yet a Party to the Stockholm Convention, the Convention has played a prominent role in the control of harmful chemicals on both a national and global level. For example, EPA and the states have significantly reduced the release of dioxins and furans to land, air, and water from U.S. sources. In addition to assessing dioxins, EPA has also been working diligently on the reduction of DDT from global sources. The United States and Canada signed an agreement for the Virtual Elimination of Persistent Toxic Substances in the Great Lakes to reduce emissions from toxic substances. The United States has also signed the regional protocol of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on POPs under the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Exit which addresses the Stockholm Convention POPs and other chemicals.
In addition to the POPs-related agreements the United States has taken part in signing, the United States has also provided ample financial and technical support to countries across the globe supporting POPs reduction. A few of these initiatives include dioxin and furan release inventories in Asia and Russia, and the reduction of PCB sources in Russia.
The "Dirty Dozen"
- aldrin ¹
- chlordane ¹
- dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT)¹
- hexachlorobenzene ¹,²
- polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) ¹,²
- polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins²(dioxins)
- polychlorinated dibenzofurans² (furans)