Press Clippings





Canadian wages global war against toxic chemical use
Quiet bureaucrat at centre of U.N. conference
By Brian McAndrew
MONTREAL - For the third year in a row, John Buccini has
missed a family tradition of watching the Canada Day fireworks on
Parliament Hill.
But the 54-year-old Environment Canada civil servant is
lighting up the sky in his own quiet way through his mission to
rid the world of its worst toxic chemicals.
Instead of spending the holiday sitting comfortably at home in
Ottawa, Buccini was perched on the dais inside a cavernous hall
here yesterday, presiding over a United Nations conference aimed
at outlawing the use of a ''dirty dozen'' hazardous chemicals.
Ninety-two countries have signed on to the negotiations with
a goal of coming up with a legally binding international agreement
by 2000 to eliminate the 12 POPs - persistent organic pollutants
that remain in the environment for a long time and can cause
cancer or other serious health problems - from all parts of the
The first decision by the delegates this week was to move
Buccini to the front of the room, a massive hall designed for
international meetings in the headquarters of the International
Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency.
"I've got to admit, I can't see people all the way at the back
of the room,'' says Buccini, still in awe of his role a few days
after his unanimous election as chair of the negotiations.
Although Buccini has maintained a low profile in his 26-year
career with the federal government, insiders working on the toxic
chemical ban were not surprised by his selection.
Buccini has spent several years travelling around the world
working behind the scenes on the efforts leading up to this week's
first round of five scheduled negotiating sessions to reach a
''He is an outstanding and very experienced chair. He will
handle this topic very successfully,'' predicts a confident Klaus
Topfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment
Adds one Canadian observer attending the negotiations: ''In
Ottawa, Buccini is very much the quiet, conservative bureaucrat
but he flourishes on the international stage. He is very creative
at getting people to work together.''
The United Nations first began serious work on eliminating
toxic chemicals following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
While most attention was devoted to the threats of global warming,
world leaders also agreed to tackle the problem of toxics like
pesticides and the deadly dioxins and furans that are the unwanted
byproducts from chemical production, automobile emissions and
waste incinerators.
''I'm calling this my own personal millennium project,''
Buccini says of the work ahead.
It has taken decades to get this far. The world was first
alerted to the dangers of chemicals like the pesticide DDT - one
of the dirty dozen - in Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring in the
1960s. The will to get rid of toxins came in March, 1996, Buccini
says, while he was chairing the Intergovernmental Forum on
Chemical Safety.
''That was the turning point,'' he says about the moment when
government, industries and environmental groups realized they
could work together toward the goal of toxic chemical elimination.
''When you get the agreement that it's time to do something
about it, you realize the debate is going to centre on what you're
going to be doing, not whether you are going to do it,'' he told
The Star.
''That has been one of the more rewarding professional
experiences of my life.''
Born in Winnipeg, Buccini obtained a doctorate in chemistry
from the University of Manitoba before moving to Ottawa to pursue
post-doctoral studies at Carleton University.
He joined Health Canada as a toxicologist, and his first
accomplishment was to halt the use of borax - mostly used as a
laundry detergent - as a fire retardant in children's stuffed
animal toys.
He discovered the chemical leached out of the plush toys when
kids chewed on them.
Buccini jumped to Environment Canada in 1982, where he is now
director of the commercial chemicals evaluation branch. He has
played an important role in regulating the use of industrial
chemicals and helped write sections of the Canadian Environmental
Protection Act.
Others in the department will take over his duties while he
moves ahead with charting the course for the next rounds of treaty
The aim is to provide a timetable for phasing out the use of
hazardous chemicals while the search for alternatives continues.
Buccini knows there will be troubles ahead, but hopes to be able
to smooth them over.
''I've never had much success as a dictator. It didn't work at
home and it won't work here,'' says the father of three grown
''There is more value in the collective wisdom of the people
sitting out there than there is in the person chairing the
While Buccini has mastered the art of diplomacy, he has a
fallback strategy for the unexpected crises that are sure to
''When all else fails, make it up as you go along,'' he says.

Editorial: Cleaning the planet
As delegates from countries around the world meet in Montreal
this week to hammer out an international accord on dangerous
chemicals that drift around the planet, they may encounter a public
mood that is highly supportive of their work but skeptical that
much will come of it.
One might think that Montrealers should be more optimistic.
After all, the last time a world parley on the environment met
here, in 1987, it produced one of the most successful of all
eco-agreements - the Montreal Protocol, which has proved effective
in reducing the volume of chemicals, notably CFCs, that destroy the
atmosphere's ozone layer.
Since then, however, the term "international environmental
accord" has lost much of its credibility. The 1992 Rio de Janeiro
pact on curbing greenhouse gases has turned out to be a sad joke,
and last winter's Kyoto accord - which was supposed to get serious
about those same gases - has so far produced snickers. By its
failure even to draw up a gas-cutting plan, Ottawa has helped fuel
this cynicism.
The issue before the delegates this week is not about heating
the world but fouling it with disease-producing chemicals. The most
notorious of the 12 toxins that the delegates are seeking to limit
is DDT. While that insecticide has been banned in Canada and the
United States for many years, scores of tropical countries still
use it as the cheapest weapon for controlling one of the world's
most underrated diseases, malaria. Winds sweep the DDT to the
Arctic and other distant points where it poses health dangers to
animals and humans.
After retreating for decades, malaria has stormed back to kill
2.7 million people every year, far more than does AIDS - and with
only a fraction of the attention and research money going to that
Yes, malaria-stricken countries should phase out DDT - and the
World Wildlife Fund's proposed target date of 2007 seems
reasonable. But the West should also promote safe alternatives to
DDT - draining wet areas in which the malaria-carrying mosquitoes
breed, for example, stocking other stagnant waters with fish that
feast on mosquito larvae and distributing window screens and
bednets (treated with pyrethroid, a degradable pesticide) to keep
these "flying syringes" at bay. It also should do more research on
prevention and cures.
Yet even with all this, a DDT ban might well entail more
deaths - at least in the short term, since a medical breakthrough
could be many years away. That would raise the prospect of this
incongruity: while, at the behest of industrialized countries, poor
nations make sacrifices leading to loss of life, many rich
countries would - on current form - be unable to ease their
greenhouse-gas-intensive lifestyle. Joe North to Joe South: "Too
bad if your kid died, but don't deprive me of my 4X4."
The West cannot expect sacrifices by the Third World without
making major ones itself. That is an obvious reality that Canada,
among other countries, needs to learn. (ENDS)

29 June 1998
Montreal /Amsterdam - Fifty women embracing symbolic
pregnant bellies welcomed international delegations participating
in the United Nations Environmental Program Convention (UNEP)
starting in Montreal today.
Government representatives will discuss a treaty to deal with
persistent organic pollutants (POPs), poisonous chemicals that are
contaminating food around the world.
Greenpeace action highlights both the threat these toxic
pollutants pose to future generations and the hope that these
negotiations promise. The women participating in the action
maintained a silent vigil for two hours, as delegates entered the
conference centre to begin their deliberations.
"We are here to greet the negotiators, but also to remind them
of their grave responsibilities", said Jack Weinberg of Greenpeace.
"They must agree on an effective program of global action to
eliminate POPs so that every pregnant woman in the world can know
that her womb can again become a toxic-free zone."
Many of the most toxic chemicals under discussion during these
negotiations are passed from mother to child in the womb and
interfere with optimal development of the fetus. They are linked
to a wide array of health problems: falling sperm counts, rising
rates of breast and testicular cancer, behaviour disorders, immune
system changes and others.
The United Nations sponsored negotiations starting in Montreal
this week mark an historic occasion: the first effort to control a
class of manmade toxic substances on a global basis. (ENDS)

Pesticide demo transforms hotel meeting room
MONTREAL (CP) - The World Wildlife Fund transformed a hotel
conference room into a Mexican adobe hut to show how easily the
highly toxic pesticide DDT can spread.
The walls and furniture of the makeshift hut were coated with
fake DDT during a simulated spraying. And with just a blanket
covering a table full of food, it was clear how the poisonous
chemical finds its way into our bodies.
DDT is one of the 12 organic toxins being targeted for
elimination by a United Nations-sponsored conference this week in
Montreal. The meeting, called the United Nations Environment
Program, is the first round of negotiations towards a global treaty
on the elimination of persistent organic pollutants, or POPs.
"DDT is the poster child for long-range persistent chemicals,
because even though it was banned decades ago in many countries, it
can still be found in high concentrations around the globe," said
Clifton Curtis, director of WWF's global toxics program in the
United States.
Julia Langer, director of WWF-Canada's wildlife toxicology
program, said DDT could prove to be one of the harder toxic
chemicals to ban, since it is effective in fighting malaria.
"The dilemma is that both malaria and DDT pose a threat to
human health," Langer said.
"There's no room for slippage when malaria kills four children
every minute.
"The task ahead is to eliminate both an ultra-nasty disease
like malaria and an ultra-nasty chemical like DDT in a way that
protects both human health and the environment."
DDT, like other POPs, can travel long distances and accumulate
in human bodies through food intake. As a result, humans and
animals in countries where DDT is not used still have a buildup in
their tissue.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has listed DDT as a
probable human carcinogen. The pesticide has also been linked to
reduced lactation in women.
According to a WWF report issued Tuesday, about 35,000 tonnes
of DDT are produced each year in at least five countries.
In its report, the WWF is calling for a global phaseout and
eventual ban on the production and use of DDT by 2000.
The report also says agencies like the World Health
Organization, the World Bank and the United Nations Environment
Program should launch programs emphasizing reduced reliance on
pesticides around the world. (Montreal Gazette)

WWF Calls for Early Phaseout of Dangerous Chemicals
As Historic Treaty Talks Begin for 100+ Nations
Montreal, June 29, 1998 -- World Wildlife Fund today urged
governments at the start of the treaty negotiations on persistent
organic pollutants (POPs) to be tough in dealing with the growing
stock of dangerous chemicals being released into the environment.
The UNEP-sponsored talks (29 June - 3 July) are the first
attempt in history to ban a class of toxic chemicals on a global
basis. More than 100 governments, UN officials and over 50 NGOs
will put forward their opening positions on key POPs-related
issues, with the goal of a legally binding treaty by 2000.
"At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, governments took
a first, halting step forward on this issue by agreeing, in
principle, that actions were needed to reduce and eliminate POPs,"
said Clifton Curtis, Director, WWF-US Global Toxics Program. "Six
years later, it's 'showtime' here in Montreal. As the curtain
rises, the challenge is to turn promises and high sounding rhetoric
into concrete, binding measures that will eliminate POPs in a
rapid, orderly, and just manner."
Twelve POPs have been targeted by UNEP for early action,
including DDT and 8 other pesticides; two industrial chemicals -
PCBs and hexachlorobenzine; and dioxins and furans, unintended but
highly toxic byproducts of industrial combustion and chlorine-based
bleaching. In addition, negotiators have agreed to develop
criteria for adding other POPs to the action list. WWF has
prepared a special report on DDT, for release at the meeting on
June 30th, using that particular POP to showcase a framework and
"tool kit" for moving away from pesticide-dependent malaria
"Most people assume that notorious chemicals like DDT were
banned long ago but it is not so," said Julia Langer, Director,
Wildlife Toxicology Program, WWF-Canada. "Ultra-nasty,
super-long-lived pesticides and industrial pollutants are still
being made, used and discharged around the globe. Only firm
commitments to phase out POPs will diminish the toxic legacy people
and wildlife are exposed to daily."
For WWF, which has joined with a growing cadre of
environmental and public health groups in forming the International
POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), the challenge is for governments
to stay focused on achieving an effective, expeditiously concluded
global treaty regime. Three special working groups are likely to
be created to address restricted use and elimination actions for
the prioritized 12 POPs; criteria and procedures for adding new
POPs; and existing and innovative financial sources and mechanisms
to assist developing countries in implementing the proposed new
agreement. (ENDS)

Three Decades after Silent Spring, DDT Still Menacing the
Environment: WWF Report Details Hazards, Uses and Alternatives
MONTREAL, 1 July -- A report released today by WWF, "Resolving
the DDT Dilemma," notes that DDT is linked to irreparable harm in
animals and humans such as reduced lactation and reproductive
problems. About 39,000 tons of DDT are produced each year in at
least five countries and it is legally imported and used in dozens,
including Mexico.
Because DDT can travel long distances and accumulate in the
body, millions of humans and animals worldwide have buildups of the
chemical in their tissue, even though it may have been produced on
another continent. WWF-sponsored research, for example, has found
that black-footed albatrosses on Midway Island -- 3,100 miles from
Los Angeles and 2,400 miles from Tokyo -- have high levels of DDT,
as well as PCBs and dioxins. Further studies have linked DDT to
feminization and altered sex-ratios of gulls, and eggshell thinning
in birds of prey.
"DDT is the poster child for long-range persistent chemicals
because even though it was banned decades ago in many countries, it
can still be found in high concentrations across the globe," said
Clifton Curtis, Director, WWF-US Global Toxics Program. "As our
report shows, it is possible to completely ban DDT and work to
eradicate malaria in ways that protect the environment and human
"The dilemma is that both malaria and DDT pose a threat to
human health. The pesticides used to fight malaria are also harming
biodiversity," said Julia Langer, Director, Wildlife Toxicology
Program, WWF-Canada. "There's no room for slippage when malaria
kills four children every minute. The task ahead is to eliminate
both an ultra-nasty disease like malaria and an ultra-nasty
chemical like DDT in a way that protects both human health and the
WWF studied a range of insect-borne disease control programs
in Africa, India, the Philippines, South America and Mexico. A
variety of alternative techniques proved to be effective and
financially feasible, including pesticide-impregnated bednets
(reducing the need for airborne interior spraying); odor-baited
cloth targets to attract and destroy disease-carrying insects;
lower-risk pesticides used in rotation to avoid the development of
resistance; and widespread elimination of mosquito breeding grounds
and introduction of natural predators and sterile insects.
The results include 34 million people in West Africa protected
from river blindness; 700,000 Indians protected from malaria; a
reduction of malaria incidence in certain Tanzanian villages by 60
percent; and a 50 percent reduction in malaria cases in the
Philippines that also reduced malaria-fighting costs by 40 percent.
Malaria is an often deadly infection of the bloodstream
characterized by chills, fever and sweating that is usually passed
on by vectors such as mosquitoes. For decades, DDT was used to
combat malaria and other vector-borne diseases, with striking
success early on. However, malaria continues to be a global menace
-- about 2.5 billion people in over 90 countries are currently at
risk, and it is the second leading cause of illness and death in
the developing world, after diarrheal infections.
"Resolving the DDT Dilemma" offers a framework to guide
malaria control programs toward reduced reliance on all pesticides,
and a 'tool kit' of alternative techniques, along with the
following four recommendations:
DDT should be phased out of use and ultimately banned by 2007,
and in the interim should be considered a pesticide of last resort;
Targeted programs emphasizing reduced reliance on pesticides
and better environmental protection should be developed by the
World Health Organization, World Bank, United Nations Environment
Program and other multilateral an bilateral assistance agencies;
Adequate financial and technical resources must be provided to
undertake integrated vector management programs;
Research is needed on the hazards from chronic exposure to
synthetic pyrethroids being used for indoor spraying and to
impregnate bednets before they can be endorsed as alternatives.
The report is being released as nations gather in Montreal to
begin a two-year process designed to ban 12 of the most dangerous
persistent organic pollutants, including DDT, and to develop
criteria for banning other chemicals determined to pose
unacceptable risks to human health and the environment. (ENDS)

WWF 1-7-98
Resolving the DDT Dilemma: Protecting Human Health and Biodiversity
Executive Summary
For decades, DDT has played a major role in global efforts to
combat malaria and other vector-borne diseases. It was employed
with striking early success against malaria. Nonetheless, malaria
continues to be a global menace -- approximately 2.5 billion people
in over 90 countries are currently at risk of contracting the
disease. It is a leading cause of illness and death in the
developing world, contributing to approximately 3 million deaths
and up to 500 million acute clinical cases every year. Most deaths
occur in sub-Saharan African and over half are children under five
years old -- malaria kills four children per minute or 5,000 per
Worsening drug and insecticide resistance; wars, natural
disasters and human migrations that interrupt control operations;
local climate changes; and heightened risk associated with the
economic exploitation of remote areas for mining, forestry or
irrigated agriculture have contributed to the resurgence in
malaria. Control programs have languished as a result of diminished
interest in malaria by the international community and budget cuts
required by international lenders to address structural and debt
problems in the economies of developing countries. Flawed
decentralization strategies also have hampered the effectiveness of
control programs in various countries.
Today, DDT’s only official use, as specified by the World
Health Organization (WHO), is for the control of disease vectors in
indoor house spraying. However, other (illegal) uses are suspected.
It is manufactured in approximately half a dozen countries with
global production estimated in 1995 at about 30,000 metric tonnes
per year. DDT use has declined for a combination of reasons,
including growing insecticide resistance; documented evidence of
environmental damage, concern about contamination of foodstuffs,
and suspicions about hazards to human health. Nonetheless, because
DDT is regarded as relatively inexpensive and less acutely
hazardous to human health than other pesticides, tropical disease
specialists are reluctant to part with a tool still considered to
be effective.
What has not been factored into the equation is the
unacceptably high hazard DDT poses to global biodiversity and human
health, especially since reasonable alternatives exist. And as mass
balance modeling indicates, contrary to general assumptions, indoor
house spraying of DDT puts DDT into the environment and contributes
to the build-up of DDT in the bodies of residents whose homes are
sprayed. In recent years, evidence has grown that elevated
concentrations of DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, are associated
with reduced lactation by human mothers and in many areas where DDT
is still used, measured concentrations exceed health guidelines.
Links exist between DDT and reproductive and immunotoxic effects in
wildlife due to the chemicals' disruption of sex hormones and other
chemical messenger systems in these organisms. However, pesticides
widely being introduced to replace DDT, particularly various
synthetic pyrethroids, also have been associated with disruption of
the endocrine system and adverse reproductive, developmental,
immunological, neurological and behavioural outcomes.
The dilemma is that both malaria and the chemicals used to
control it pose a threat to human health. The chemicals used also
threaten biodiversity. Clearly, there is no room for slippage in
the fight against malaria. Neither is there desire to increase
environmental contamination, especially as the true magnitude of
the impacts on people and wildlife comes to light.
Fortunately, there are disease control programs that are safer
both for people and for the environment that maintain or improve
protection from the disease at acceptable cost, eliminate DDT, and
reduce insecticide dependence. These employ Integrated Vector
Management (IVM) principles, reducing the use of, and reliance on,
chemical pesticides and incorporating non-chemical vector
management measures without adverse conservation impacts.
Resolving the DDT Dilemma 1) examines the use of DDT,
alternative vector control insecticides, and non-chemical vector
management methods in public health programs; 2) provides current
information on the non-target impacts of both DDT and other
pesticides; 3) investigates householder and environmental exposure
to DDT resulting from anti-malaria house spraying; 4) offers
evidence that safer options are available through profiles of six
projects from various regions; and 5) provides a framework and tool
kit for moving along a spectrum away from pesticide-dependent
malaria control toward "bio-reliant" non-chemical vector management
WWF’s recommendations rest on seven premises, namely that 1)
disturbing information about DDT hazards to both human health and
global biodiversity has emerged since the WHO's last major
assessment in 1993; 2) affordable alternatives to DDT are available
now; 3) eliminating the use of DDT should be part of a broader
program of reduced reliance on chemical pesticides; 4) synthetic
pyrethroids offer benefits of low persistence and bioaccumulation
relative to DDT, but they pose other known hazards and all possible
hazards have not been sufficiently characterized; 5) even with
aggressive research on vaccines and other non-pesticide-based
disease control, malaria's wily nature makes it difficult to
predict when other solutions might be created; 6) an integrated
approach to disease management requires careful consideration of
development and irrigation projects that could contribute to
disease outbreaks; and 7) for integrated malaria programs to have
any chance of success, targeted financial assistance in many
countries is essential.
WWF offers its recommendations at a time of renewed global
interest in managing malaria, although the nature and
organizational form of the global response to the malaria challenge
remains fluid. Summarily stated, Resolving the DDT Dilemma sets out
four core recommendations:
Recommendation #1: DDT should be phased out of use and
ultimately banned. Specifically, DDT production and use should be
banned globally by no later than 2007 under the terms of the
proposed global Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) treaty. In the
interim, DDT should be characterized by the WHO and international
assistance agencies as a pesticide of last resort, used only when
no other vector control methods (including other pesticides) are
available or likely to be effective;
Recommendation #2: Targeted programs promoting Integrated
Vector Management (IVM) and Integrated Disease Management (IDM),
which emphasize reduced reliance on pesticides and better
environmental protection, should be developed by the WHO, World
Bank, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and other
multilateral and bilateral assistance agencies, in collaboration
with national health authorities. To implement these, a) each
nation should have in place by 2000 a plan to implement the WHO's
1992 Global Strategy for Malaria that contains effective pesticide
reduction measures, including elimination of DDT; b) special
emphasis should be placed on eliminating the use of, and reliance
on, pesticides and special care should be exercised in the
deployment of pesticides in and around conservation areas,
agricultural areas, and the habitat of vulnerable species; c)
extreme caution should be taken to avoid adverse impacts on
ecosystems and biodiversity; and d) strong community participation
and methods to prevent illegal use of DDT for non-public health
uses must be components of IVM plans.
Recommendation #3: Adequate financial and technical resources
must be earmarked toward operationalizing IVM that reduces reliance
on and use of chemical pesticides.
Recommendation #4: Pesticide manufacturers and public agencies
should conduct collaborative research to analyze the possible
hazards from chronic human exposure to synthetic pyrethroids used
to spray residences and impregnate bednets.
Reliance on DDT can be dramatically reduced, and eliminated by
2007, provided there is concerted government and private sector
action to achieve this goal. The international POPs treaty that
will be negotiated during 1998-2000 is an essential step to help
accelerate this process, but major commitments by other key
decision-makers also are necessary to accomplish this objective.
Since phasing out DDT requires a collaborative process, WWF directs
its recommendations widely -- at the negotiators of the global POPs
treaty, officials in multilateral organizations, bilateral
assistance agencies, national governments, the private sector, and
the scientific research community. (ENDS)

World health organization urged to support DDT ban
By Herve Edongo
MONTREAL, 1 July (Reuters) - An effective worldwide ban of the
pesticide DDT would depend on support from the World Health
Organisation (WHO), an expert from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
said on Tuesday during international negotiations on the reduction
of pollutants.
"All eyes are now on the WHO," declared Julia Langer,
Ecotoxicology Programme Director for the WWF in Canada.
She was speaking in Montreal during negotiations sponsored by
the United Nations on the reduction of emissions and rejections of
organic and permanent pollutants.
Environmental groups aim to stop the use of 12 toxic
pollutants, one of which is DDT, before the year 2000.
"The WHO recommends the use of DDT in houses. Until the
organisation changes that policy, countries who use DDT will
continue to use the argument that they only apply the WHO's
recommendations," Langer said.
"We are not talking about individuals but about a public
health service that favours the use of DDT," she added.
The Word Wildlife Fund singled out Madagascar and Russia as
countries that still use DDT, and China and Mexico as major
producers of the substance.
According to the environmental organisation, the few countries
that still use and produce DDT put the world's health in jeopardy
since DDT travels huge distances in the atmosphere and accumulates
in organisms, affecting many countries.
DDT pollutes the environment, the food and the air, and causes
health problems in humans and animals, such as a reduction in
lactation and reproduction.
In a report titled "Resolving the DDT Dilemma", which presents
the results of investigations and experiences conducted around the
world, the World Wildlife Fund suggests solutions and alternative
measures to the use of DDT.
These include, for example, the use of pesticide-moistened
nets, the elimination of the insects' reproductive areas and the
use of less harmful pesticides.
Although a ban of DDT has been advocated since the 60s because
of its toxic attributes, it is still widely used, notably in the
fight against malaria, a disease that affects about 2,5 billion
people globally.
"DDT is considered efficient and cheap, and that is the reason
health services don't want to abandon it," said Langer. (ENDS)