Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers


Raleigh News and Observer
10 March 2003

Experts work on blueprint for cutting dioxin, related pollutants

By EMERY P. DALESIO, , Associated Press Writer

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (AP) - Environmental experts from 35 countries gathered Monday to start hammering out industry guidelines they hope will one day rid the world of dioxin and related pollutants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is hosting the meeting convened by the United Nations Environmental Programme. Participants are working to sort out practical ways to change industrial processes that unintentionally produce a class of pollutants that last a long time before breaking down and can cause cancer and birth defects. Most of the dozen persistent organic pollutants named as needing immediate global action are either pesticides, like DDT and chlordane, or industrial chemicals such as PCBs. Their production can be stopped if the plants that make them are turned off.

But dioxins and furans are emitted when industries are producing something else, like pulp and paper mills that use chlorine or cement kilns firing hazardous waste.

"They're byproducts of certain types of industrial and combustion processes. The reason for the distinction is that you can't just turn off the tap," said meeting co-chairman Bob Kellam, of EPA's Office of Air Quality and Standards in Research Triangle Park. "Instead you have to look at the industries that release them and figure out what you can to mitigate."

The weeklong session is the first since the United States and other countries pledged to stop the intentional production of the pollutants, signing a treaty in Stockholm, Sweden.

The treaty goes into effect after the governments of about two dozen more countries agree to change their own laws in line with the U.N. document. The Bush Administration is placing a priority on Congress ratifying the treaty and is working to introduce legislation this year, said Dale Evarts, EPA's international program coordinator for air quality planning.

For developing countries, applying the treaty is faster than developing their own regulations and it protects people from polluters shopping the world for places where environmental laws are lax, said Nelson Manda of Zambia, the head of the chemicals department of his country's equivalent to the EPA.

"If an industry wants to set up in Africa, in one of our countries, we could easily look up to these guidelines (and ask), 'Are you conforming with A, B, C, D?' That would help us benchmark an industry against what is really necessary," he said.

Applying an international treaty also insulates environmental laws from politicians waiving regulations to try to hasten development in a poor country, Manda said.

"It's an important tool," he said.

The meeting is being held in RTP because it is home to the EPA's largest operation outside of Washington, D.C., and home to its air quality office. A second U.N.-sponsored meeting is scheduled for July in Geneva, Kellem said.






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