Increased flooding and temperatures could increase our exposure to chemicals kept in check according to the terms of the Stockholm Treaty.
In 2004, the Stockholm Treaty was established to manage exposure to 21 dangerous chemicals. The Jerusalem Post reports that a recently-published United Nations document shows that climate change could undermine the ability of 172 parties to uphold that treaty’s terms. Increased flooding and other freak weather has the potential to leak contaminants stored in stockpiles, while higher temperatures could increase emissions of volatile gases. While Israel does not officially use any of the chemicals listed in the report, the Environmental Ministry is investigating to ensure that none exist and will create a national plan to discontinue any discovered.
Released at a recent UN meeting in Kenya’s capital, the report outlines the difficulty of managing Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the face of climate change.
“Significant climate-induced changes are foreseen in relation to future releases of persistent organic pollutants into the environment… subsequently leading to higher health risks both for human populations and the environment,” Donald Cooper, the Geneva-based UN treaty’s executive secretary, wrote in the preface.
Research shows that many of these chemicals have the ability to travel great distances via air and water and become embedded in the food chain. Despite having no immediate exposure to such POPs, Canadian Inuits showed concentrations of them in their blood and fatty tissue.
POPs are harmful to reproductive and mental health, and can lead to cancer and other diseases. Included among those listed as particularly insidious chemicals are DDT and chlordane. DDT, which is used to kill malaria-spreading mosquitoes, is permitted but the UN hopes to eradicate its use completely by the early 2020s.
Israel banned DDT six years ago. Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid or PFOS, used in a variety of applications including an insecticide used to combat head lice, was also added to the list.
As temperatures rise, pest infestations will become more common. This in turn will lead to increasing use of pesticides such as DDT, according to the report, creating yet another challenge to the Stockholm Treaty.
Israel and Saudi Arabia are among the countries party to the treaty, though neither have ratified it. The Post notes that the Israeli Environmental Ministry is working to establish a plan that will realistically allow the country to implement the stringent requirements.
Proactive mitigation will decrease long-term dangers.
More on chemicals in the Middle East:
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