Daily News Archive
From February 19, 2002

Crackdown on Hazardous Chemicals Sought by U.N.

Albatrosses, whales and remote Arctic tribes in some of the Earth's most pristine regions carry high levels of toxic chemicals, reports Reuters. The chemicals, some of which can cause cancer, immune deficiencies, and reproductive impairment, deplete the ozone layer, cause climate change and affect biodiversity.

World environmental leaders met in Cartagena, Colombia to plan a global crackdown on the manufacture, dumping and smuggling of banned substances, many of which are now produced in developing countries. The plan would provide funding to poor countries, whose weak safety standards and inadequate storage are raising fears of increased global contamination.

A U.N. report said albatrosses nesting on Midway Island in the Northern Pacific are carrying hazardous levels of PCBs, DDT, dioxin and furans. It also found many whales carrying PCBs and other contaminants that cause development defects in humans. Scientists have found high levels of PCBs and DDT in blood and tissues of the Inuit, a tribe that lives in northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Russia's far East.

Their spread to remote areas of the globe far from where they were released shows how pervasive they have become and the seriousness of the threat to the environment.

Advocates of the plan, which is being discussed in a U.N.-sponsored conference on the environment, say a global approach will help reduce risks to the environment and human health. Representatives from China, Kenya, Russia, and Senegal said the key to the program's success would be finding international funding willing to pay for training and technology.