Russia Signs Stockholm POPs Convention

A representative of the Russian government today signed the
Stockholm POPs Convention – a landmark treaty to phase out
some of the most dangerous chemicals on Earth. Marking the
one year anniversary of the introduction of the Stockholm
Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), Russia's
decision to sign is a major step toward addressing the serious
toxic pollution situation in that country, according to World
Wildlife Fund.

"WWF in joint effort with other NGOs and Russian experts has
worked hard to promote the Convention," said Alexey Kokorin,
toxic project leader at WWF Russia. "At last we have
succeeded in ensuring officials that the Stockholm Convention
is necessary for Russia. Phasing out these toxic chemicals is
important not only for human health, but also for wildlife and
ecosystems."

As a heavily industrialized country and a major producer of
organic chemicals, Russia faces a variety of threats from toxic
contamination. Huge volumes of DDT and other POPs were
widely used for agricultural production in the 1960s-1980s and
there are now approximately 20,000 metric tons of obsolete
pesticides stockpiled in Russia. Several thousands of units of
outdated electric equipment filled with PCBs are now being
destroyed without proper control. These problems require
significant amount of funding–funding that is not available from
the federal budget. The Stockholm Convention provides unique
possibility to address the contamination issues with
international assistance.

"This commitment by Russia to fight toxic chemicals is of
particular importance for the fragile Arctic environment. Russia
has the most industrial activity in the Arctic and is a significant
source of dangerous chemicals to its own arctic territories and
areas nearby," said Samantha Smith, Director of WWF's Arctic
Programme. "The stage is now set for Russian and international
efforts to clean up the POPs that are polluting Russia's Arctic,
and WWF congratulates the Russian government on this step."

The Stockholm Convention on POPs, which requires ratification
by 50 countries to take effect, would ban or severely restrict the
production and use of 12 chemicals once implemented. These
include eight pesticides, as well as PCBs, DDT, and dioxins
that can wreak havoc in human and animal tissue, damaging the
nervous and immune systems and causing reproductive and
developmental disorders and cancer. Thus far 146 countries
have signed and 8 have ratified the convention.

WWF is urging governments to ratify the Stockholm Convention
and other chemicals-related agreements prior to the World
Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South
Africa in late August 2002. Financial assistance is a critical
issue for the World Summit and the Stockholm Convention's
international fund will help developing countries shift to
environmentally safe alternatives.

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