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UNEP Chemicals Undertakes US$5 Million
Project Funded by Global
Environment Facility To Assess Persistent Toxic Substances Regionally
GENEVA/NAIROBI, 22 August 2000 -- To reach a better understanding of the environmental and health risks posed by persistent toxic substances and the measures needed to deal with them, UNEP Chemicals will execute a US$5 million project to assess these pollutants in all regions of the globe.
Results of the project, scheduled to start in September and planned to run for two years, will contribute to future priority-setting by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which gave final approval for starting the full-scale study in July this year. In the long term, the projects outcomes should serve to guide international action to protect human health and the environment from persistent toxic substances.
The Global Environment Facility is jointly implemented through UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank. This study will be the first full-scale GEF project devoted to this class of chemicals.
The assessment will complement the work being done in conjunction with negotiations for a global treaty on the list of 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) now underway. These toxic chemicals were targeted for action by the UNEP Governing Council mandate (Decision 19/13C) issued in 1997. The new GEF project will assess problems associated with the broader category of persistent toxic substances.
There is clearly a need for a scientifically-based assessment of the nature and scale of the threats to the environment and public health from persistent toxic substances that goes beyond the list of 12 persistent organic pollutants, said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director. Conclusions from the full-scale project will assist GEF in establishing future priorities, help countries and regions in developing responses to risks from these pollutants, and, in the longer term, contribute to identifying additional POPs for international action.
Persistent toxic substances pose a serious threat to humans and the environment. They can last in the environment for a long time and be transported long distances far from their origin. They can accumulate in organisms through the food chain, and be present in food at levels of concern for human health.
There is growing awareness that substances similar to the 12 listed in the UNEP mandate may harm the environment, and through the environment, endanger human health. In addition, there is growing recognition that effects of persistent toxic substances are likely to vary due to different use patterns and environmental factors affecting their deposition and distribution in the environment. At the same time, however, information on the use and effects of these substances in different regions is scarce.
This project will help fill that critical information gap. The assessment will be based on an analysis of conditions in each region, using information from a variety of sources and applying common methods and approaches.
Paul Whylie, presently Registrar of the Pesticides Control Authority of Jamaica, has been selected to serve as project manager. He will bring to the initiative a broad range of experience in regional and international activities related to persistent toxic substances, including active participation in negotiations leading to the Rotterdam Convention and talks now underway on a POPs treaty. He holds a masters degree in agricultural sciences and has experience in assessments and interdisciplinary work relating to technical and scientific issues. He will take up the post 1 September 2000.
Note to journalists: Additional data and documents are available via the Internet (www.chem.unep.ch/pops) and from UNEP Chemicals in Geneva. For followup or to arrange interviews, please contact: James B. Willis, Director, UNEP Chemicals, at tel: (+41 22) 917 81 83; fax: (+41 22) 797 34 60; e-mail: email@example.com; or Linda Durkee, Policy and Communications Advisor, UNEP Chemicals, tel: (+41 22) 917 85 11; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. In Nairobi, please contact Tore J. Brevik, Spokesman/Director of Information, Communications and Public Information, UNEP, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel (254 2) 623292; Fax (254 2) 623692; email: email@example.com