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Meeting on International Agreement on persistent toxicants

[Federal Register: May 13, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 92)]
[Page 26668-26670]
>From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



[Public Notice No. 2819]

Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific 
Affairs; Public Meeting on Preparations for an International Agreement 
Through the United Nations Environment Program on Persistent Organic 

SUMMARY: The United States government, through an interagency working 
group chaired by the U.S. Department of State, is preparing for 
negotiations through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on a 
global agreement to address certain persistent organic pollutants that 
result in risks of a transboundary nature. The first negotiating 
session is scheduled to take place in Montreal, Canada, on June 29-July 
3 this year. The Department of State will host a public meeting in 
advance of this session to outline issues likely to arise in the 
context of the negotiations. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, 
June 3 from 10:30-12:30 in Room 1912 of the U.S.

[[Page 26669]]

Department of State, 2201 C Street Northwest, Washington, D.C. to 
expedite their entrance into the building, attendees should provide 
Eunice Mourning (tel. 202-647-9266, fax 202-647-5947) with their date 
of birth and social security number by close of business on Monday, 
June 1. Attendees should enter at the ``C'' Street entrance and bring 
picture identification with them.
    For further information, please contact Mr. Trigg Talley, U.S. 
Department of State, OES/ENV, Room 4325, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, 
D.C. 20520. Phone 202-647-5808, fax 202-647-5947.
Supplementary Information: The United States, through an interagency 
working group chaired by the U.S. Department of State, is preparing for 
negotiations through the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) on an 
agreement that will establish global controls on certain pollutants 
that, because of their physico-chemical properties, pose risks of a 
transboundary or global nature. These pollutants, which have been 
termed ``persistent organic pollutants'' in a number of international 
discussions, share four characteristics: they are toxic, persist in the 
environment for long periods of time, bioaccumulate in the fatty tissue 
of humans and animals, and are prone to long-distance transport. These 
pollutants are generally heavily controlled in the United States. Well-
known examples of chemicals that exhibit these characteristics include 
dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT), polychlorinated biphenyls 
(PCBs) and polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated 
dibenzo-furans (PCDFs).
    POPs have been linked to a variety of adverse effects on humans and 
wildlife, including immune and metabolic system dysfunction, 
neurological deficits, reproductive abnormalities, and cancer. POPs 
biomagnify through the food chain, and have been measured in fatty 
tissue (including in fish and marine mammals consumed by humans) at 
concentrations many orders of magnitude greater than those found in the 
surrounding environment. Because of these characteristics, several POPs 
continue to raise concerns decades after controls have been put into 
place in the United States. For example, DDT remains ubiquitous in the 
environment and human tissue twenty-five years after its control in the 
United States. Likewise, continuing PCB contamination led to fish 
advisories in watersheds in 34 U.S. states in 1995 (including the Great 
Lakes), some twenty years after initial controls.
    Certain POPs also behave in a manner that can result in effects 
that are transboundary or global in nature. Many of these POPs are 
``semi-volatile,'' meaning that they tend to vaporize at warmer 
temperatures and condense as the air gets cooler. Due to prevailing 
atmospheric circulation patterns, and the propensity of certain POPs 
for successive re-volatilization, there is evidence to support the 
systematic migration of such substances to cooler latitudes. Deposition 
in the Arctic region is particularly significant. POPs can also travel 
long distance through other mechanisms as well.
    Studies have identified significant deposits of many of these 
chemicals in the tissues of fish, mammals, birds and humans in 
locations thousands of miles from any known source. Studies have in 
particular found deposits of a number of POPs in the Arctic environment 
where they have been measured at high levels in humans and wildlife. 
For certain native populations whose traditional diet is heavy in fish 
and marine mammals, measured levels of several POPs, including DDT and 
PCBs, approach or exceed levels of concern.
    The United States and many other countries have already taken 
substantial action to address risks associated with the pollutants 
identified for action in international bodies. Nonetheless, certain of 
them remain in use and production in parts of the world, and there 
appears to be continuing transboundary deposition of a number of these 
chemicals. For example, analysis of DDT samples taken in North America 
suggest fairly recent deposition, probably from sources in the tropics.
    In response to mounting evidence of potentially significant 
transboundary deposition of and exposure to these chemicals, the United 
States has for some time supported action on the most problematic POPs 
in several regional bodies, in addition to UNEP's work. In North 
America, the United Stats has been involved in efforts to address POPs 
risks through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, as well as 
through the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. 
Finally, the United States and over 50 other countries recently 
concluded negotiations on a protocol on persistent organic pollutants 
through the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe's Convention on Long-
Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP). The protocol calls for 
prohibitions or restrictions on thirteen pesticides and commercial 
chemicals (DDT, PCBs, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, toxaphene, mirex, 
hexachlorobenzene, heptachlor, chlordane, chlordecone, 
hexabromobipheny, and hexachlorocyclohexane); and controls on 
significant emissions from releases from stationary sources of four by-
products of industrial processes (PCDDs, PCDFs, hexachlorobenzene and 
certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). All of these pollutants are 
subject to stringent controls in the United States. The agreement also 
establishes a mechanism for considering action on additional pollutants 
once the agreement comes into force. More information on this protocol 
and the LRTAP Convention can be found at http://www.unece.org.

Activities to Date through the U.N. Environment Program

    The United States and other countries recognized several years ago 
that the global nature of POPs dispersion (and particularly continuing 
releases in different regions of the world) meant that regional 
activities would not be sufficient to fully address the problem. 
Accordingly, preparatory work was begun through UNEP and other 
technical organizations in 1995 toward global action to address some of 
the most harmful persistent organic pollutants. Countries identified 
twelve pollutants in particular for early assessment and global action.
    The pollutants identified include nine pesticides, eight of which 
are banned for use in the United States (DDT, chlordane, aldrin, 
dieldrin, endrin, toxaphene, mirex, and hexachlorobenzene; the ninth, 
heptachlor, is severely restricted); PCBs, a family of industrial 
chemicals that are no longer produced in the United States but which 
remain in use in electrical equipment and other uses; and PCDDs and 
PCDFs, two toxic by by-products of combustion and other industrial 
    Countries recognized that addressing these three different classes 
of POP will require different management approaches. For example, 
commercially produced POPs such as pesticides would be subject to use 
and production controls; in contrast, addressing PCDDs and PCDFs will 
require a variety of measures aimed at reducing releases of PCDDs into 
the environment. Finally, to the extent that there are significant 
stocks of PCB equipment as well as other POPs stockpiles, such stocks 
would need to be managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound 
    In December 1995, 105 countries at the Washington Conference on 

[[Page 26670]]

Based Sources of Marine Pollution called for the development of a 
global legally binding instrument addressing the twelve substances, as 
well as the development of a procedure for consideration of additional 
pollutants in the future. An Ad Hock Working Group on POPs under the 
Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS), meeting in June 
1996, also concluded that a global agreement was necessary, and issued 
a set of recommendations to the U.N. Environment Program regarding 
specific types of actions. In February 1997, the U.N. Environment 
Program authorized establishment of an international negotiating 
committee, to work on the basis of a negotiating mandate provided in 
UNEP Decision 19/13C. The Decision, which closely reflects the 
recommendations of the IFCS Ad Hock Working Group on POPs, can be found 
in full on the internet on the POPs Home Page, which can be accessed 
through UNEP's Chemicals Home Page (http://irptc.unep.ch). The POPs 
Home Page contains the IFCS recommendations and other information on 
POPs and related activities as well.
    Among other things, countries represented in the U.N. Environment 
Program's Governing Council concluded that international action, 
including a global legally binding instrument, is required to reduce 
the risks to human health and the environment arising from the release 
of the twelve specific POPs. Countries decided that immediate 
international action should be initiated to protect human health and 
the environment through measures which will reduce and/or eliminate the 
emissions and discharges of the twelve POPs and, where appropriate, 
eliminate production and subsequently the remaining use of those POPs 
that are intentionally produced. Countries recognized that such action 
should include: use of separate, differentiated approaches to take 
action on pesticides, industrial chemicals, and unintentionally 
produced by-products and contaminants; use of transition periods, with 
phased implementation for various proposed actions; careful and 
efficient management of existing stocks of the specified persistent 
organic pollutants and, where necessary and feasible, their 
elimination; training in enforcement and monitoring of use to 
discourage the misuse of POP pesticides; and remediation of 
contaminated sites and environmental reservoirs, where feasible and 
practicable taking into account national and regional considerations in 
the light of the global significance of the problem.
    The Decision calls for the U.N. Environment Program to prepare for 
and convene, together with the World Health Organization and other 
relevant international organizations, an intergovernmental negotiating 
committee, with a mandate to prepare an international legally binding 
instrument for implementing international action initially beginning 
with the twelve specified POPs and to take into account the conclusions 
and recommendations of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Persistent Organic 
Pollutants of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety. It also 
notes the need to develop science-based criteria and a procedure for 
identifying additional persistent organic pollutants as candidates for 
future international action, and requests the intergovernmental 
negotiating committee to establish, at its first meeting, an expert 
group to carry out this work. It specifies that the group should work 
expeditiously, proceeding concurrently with the intergovernmental 
negotiating committee process, to develop criteria for consideration by 
the intergovernmental negotiating committee in the negotiation of a 
legally binding instrument. It specifies that the process should 
incorporate criteria pertaining to persistence, bioaccumulation, 
toxicity and exposure in different regions and should take into account 
the potential for regional and global transport including dispersion 
mechanisms for the atmosphere and the hydrosphere, migratory species 
and the need to reflect possible influences of marine transport and 
tropical climates. The Decision also calls for the U.N. Environment 
Program to undertake a variety of actions to lead to more effective 
ways of addressing specific aspects of POPs.
    The Decision calls for negotiations to begin this year and to be 
completed by the year 2000. It is expected that negotiating sessions 
will occur every six months or so, with technical work occurring in the 
    The Administration is preparing its position for this negotiation, 
and has scheduled a public meeting to be held on Wednesday, June 3 from 
10:30 to 12:30 in Room 1912 of the U.S. Department of State. Members of 
the interagency working group will provide an overview of U.S. 
preparations for the first meeting. The U.S. Department of State is 
issuing this notice to help ensure that potentially affected parties 
are aware of and knowledgeable about these negotiations. In subsequent 
briefings, we will be contacting organizations that have expressed an 
interest by mail or fax. Those organizations that cannot attend the 
June 3 meeting, but wish to remain informed, should provide Mr. Trigg 
Talley of the Department of State (202-647-5808; tel. 202-647-5947 fax; 
LTalley@state.gov) with their address, and telephone and fax numbers.

    Dated: May 8, 1998.
Trigg Talley,
Foreign Affairs Officer, Office of Environmental Policy.
[FR Doc. 98-12748 Filed 5-12-98; 8:45 am]

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