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Landmark Toxics Treaty Becomes International Law

Washington, DC -- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said today that the entry into force on May 17th of the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) will significantly reduce toxic threats to wildlife and people throughout the world.

"WWF applauds the initiative and commitment of the 59 countries that have joined the treaty and we urge the United States and other governments to get on board quickly," said Brooks Yeager, vice president of WWF's Global Threats Program and formerly the chief U.S. negotiator for the POPs treaty. "The Stockholm Convention is a shining example of how the international community can come together to address a serious environmental and health threat. Whales, polar bears, birds of prey, and people throughout the world will benefit from eliminating the toxic chemicals targeted by this progressive, new global regime."

The treaty will ban or severely restrict 12 extremely harmful chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and several pesticides, with provisions to add additional chemicals in the future. POPs have four key characteristics: they are toxic; they are persistent, resisting normal processes that break down contaminants; they accumulate in the body fat of people, marine mammals and other animals, and are passed from mother to fetus; and they can travel great distances on wind and water currents. Even small quantities of POPs can cause nervous system damage, diseases of the immune system, reproductive and developmental disorders, and cancers.

France became the 50th party on February 17, 2004, triggering a 90-day countdown for the treaty to become binding international law for countries that have ratified it. In the three years since the treaty has been open for ratification, 59 countries have joined the Convention. The United States is noticeably absent from the list of Parties. Although the U.S. signed the treaty in May 2001, there exists considerable disagreement about how to amend existing laws to implement the treaty. The first Conference of Parties (COP) is slated to take place in Uruguay from 2 to 6 May, 2005. To participate as a party at this crucial first meeting, governments need to join at least 90 days beforehand -- by February 1, 2005.

"WWF wants the United States to become a party to the Stockholm Convention in time to participate in the first COP, but not if that requires bad legislation," said Clifton Curtis, director of WWF's Global Toxics Program. "The White House is pushing language that goes way too far in divorcing the Stockholm new chemicals "adding mechanism" from the domestic process -- and then piles on industry-favored baggage with controversial cost-benefit and sound-science type requirements, all of which would make it very difficult to regulate any POP added to the treaty."

Note to editors:
The 59 parties to the Stockholm Convention are: Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Canada, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Iceland, Japan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Vietnam, Yemen.