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Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Treaty

Signed in 2001, the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) treaty is an environmental treaty based on an agreement made at the Stockholm Convention with the UN to restrict or eliminate persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The treaty was agreed upon at the Stockholm Convention in 2001, but was officially enacted in the United States in 2004. After POPs undesirable health effects were discovered, it was determined a change was needed to protect the health of all U.S. citizens. As a result, the POPs treaty outlines 12 toxins, “the dirty dozen,” on its list of targeted pollutants.

Persistent organic pollutants are toxic chemicals that are often used in agricultural production, industrial manufacturing, combustion, and disease control. Although the list includes a wide variety of chemicals, two common ones are dichlorodiohenyl trichloroethane (DDTs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These compounds were commercially used throughout the industrialization reform and World War II without regulation, as their debilitating repercussions were undetectable at the time.

The life-long affects of exposure to POPs are detrimental. Although their use in production has been outlawed or regulated, POPs, by definition, can be transferred through wind; intentional or unintentional ingestion or inhalation of POPs have potential to affect a person. When this happens, internal organs’, reproductive, and neurological systems can be damaged. Furthermore, some POPs, such as PCBs, have a theorized link in contributing or causing cancerous tumor formation.

The POPs treaty aims to minimize and phase out harmful POPs, and sets criteria for companies to manage POPs that are unintentionally produced. Furthermore, it mandates strategies for entities to successfully identify stockpiles, products, and sites that either are contaminated, or have potential to contaminate.

Both DDTs and PCBs production has been prohibited. However, they persist to contaminate the air through a range of means, and are therefore continually regulated. Agriculture technology companies, like Monsanto, utilized PCBs in their manufacturing processes of the past. Monsanto PCBs contaminated and still contaminate the air through operation of existing products. Thanks to the POPs treaty, efforts are in place to manage their current effects, while eliminating them in the future.