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Landmark Toxics Treaty to Become Law

WWF Congratulates France as the 50th Country to Ratify Stockholm Convention

Washington, DC - World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today applauds France and other countries that have joined the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), a historic treaty that will significantly reduce toxic threats to wildlife and people throughout the world. France became a party on February 17, 2004, triggering a 90-day countdown for the treaty to become binding international law.

"POPs weaken the immune systems of whales and polar bears, contaminate the food supply of Inuit communities in the Arctic, and wreak havoc in wildlife and people throughout the world," 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 on POPs will ban or severely restrict these dangerous chemicals. WWF looks forward to working with convention parties to effectively implement this carefully crafted treaty."

The treaty targets 12 extremely harmful chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and several pesticides, with provisions to add additional chemicals in the future. POPs are hazardous because 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.

WWF played a lead NGO role in the treaty negotiations, which concluded in May 2001, and has been pressing governments to expedite their ratifications. "Achieving the requisite 50 parties in less than 3 years is a huge victory," said Clifton Curtis, director of WWF's Global Toxics Program. "The Stockholm Convention is unique in attacking the problem at its source, banning outright or severely restricting some of the world's most dangerous chemicals."

The United States is conspicuously absent from the list of parties to the convention. Although the U.S. signed the treaty in May 2001, there remains considerable disagreement about how to amend existing laws to implement the treaty. The Bush Administration's proposed legislation would create burdensome new administrative and cost-benefit requirements, making it more, rather than less, difficult to regulate any POPs chemicals that are later added to the treaty. WWF and other environmental and public health groups want the United States to become a party to the Stockholm Convention, but to do so in a way that fully and effectively implements the treaty.

Note: Read additional information about the Stockholm Convention -- www.panda.org/toxics/ratify -- WWF's Global Chemicals Conventions Web site.

List of 50 parties to the Stockholm Convention:
Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Canada, Côte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Dominica, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Iceland, Japan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Nauru, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vietnam, Yemen.