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World Leaders Likely To Add Lindane to Ban on “Dirty Dozen”
(Beyond Pesticides, May 18, 2005)
Countries met in Uruguay earlier this month to consider adding four new chemicals to the list of twelve agreed to be banned under the Stockholm convention, or Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) treaty, according to Reuters.

The four new chemicals include lindane, chlordecone and two flame retardants, pentabrominated diphenyl ether (penta-BDE) and hexabromobiphenyl (Hexa-BB). Lindane, a carcinogen and one of the last organochlorine chemicals still allowed for use in the U.S. in agriculture and head lice treatments, has been targeted by environmental groups due to its toxicity and bioaccumulation in the fatty tissue of mammals (see “Statement In Support of Elimination of Lindane”). All 12, and likely the additional four, are considered to be the world's most hazardous substances.

This month’s POPS negotiations also sought to reduce the legal exemptions that allow continued use and prolong the phase-out agreements. Due to arguments of its use for public health, DDT maintained its special exemptions.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the agency under whose auspices the treaty was negotiated, said, "’Four chemicals have already been mentioned for further research and integration, for example lindane, a pesticide widely used around the world. These are very important chemicals.’"

A working group set up to study the four additional chemicals are due to meet later this Fall. It is expected to take up to three years before lindane and the others are formally included in the ban.

The POPS treaty entered into force on May 17, 2004 after 50 countries ratified the pact. The U.S. has yet to be among the 98 total ratifying countries. In 2001, President Bush promised to support the treaty but since then his administration has sought to undermine it with legislation that would make it harder, rather than easier, for EPA to comply. (See Daily News.) The 12 POPs are aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene, dioxins and furans.

Environmentalists were pleased with the four additions of the chemicals to be banned, but were disappointed by the weak commitments from many of the countries – including the U.S. – and the failure of governments to help poor countries financially make the switch to less hazardous alternatives.