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Beating polluting chemicals

A first ever evaluation of its kind has revealed how the world is making progress in removing long-lasting pollutants from our lives, largely thanks to actions taking place under conventions hosted by UN Environment.


The Stockholm Convention’s Global Monitoring Plan for Effectiveness Evaluation analysed mothers’ milk, blood and air. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are generally declining in all of these, found the report, which was issued in January.

UN Environment hosts the Secretariat for the Convention, where countries have agreed on 26 POPs to be phased out of production and use. Since its entry into force in 2004, the Convention helps ensure that successful local measures are applied worldwide.

At Cape Hedo on the island of Okinawa in Japan, concentrations of the harmful DDT pesticide measured in the air have clearly declined from 2009 to 2013. This could be a direct result of the Stockholm Convention.

PCBs are harmful and banned chemicals that have been used in adhesives and paints. In Western Europe, those found in human milk in Belgium declined from over 450 nanograms per gram of fat in 1990 to less than 150 nanograms in 2015.

On the other hand, PCB 52 has steadily increased in air concentrations at the Arctic station of Stórhöfði in Iceland. However, “this rise can be attributed to climate change,” noted UN Environment expert Ana-Maria Witt - with melting ice and permafrost now releasing pollutants that had previously been trapped.

Overall, POP concentrations measured in air and in human populations have declined and continue to decline or remain at low levels. This is particularly true for the initial 12 listed in the Convention. For chemicals that are newly listed, concentrations are beginning to decline, although in a few cases some are increasing or remained at stable levels.

The Stockholm Convention’s Conference of Parties meeting kicking off in April is likely to announce that the economic conditions are shaping up to justify banning or restricting the use of more chemicals.

“The work to ban or have limits placed on chemicals is difficult – we need safe alternatives that are accessible to all regions of the world,” Ms Witt explained, outlining the full nature of the challenge tackled by UN Environment under the Convention.

To view an executive summary of the report please click here. Infographics showing results for individual chemicals are also available here. For further information contact










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