Bush to sign treaty to ban 'dirty dozen' chemicals worldwide

Thursday, April 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush announced Thursday that he will sign and ask the Senate to ratify a Clinton-era treaty calling for the worldwide phaseout of a dozen highly toxic chemicals known as POPs.

The chemicals, widely dubbed ``the dirty dozen,'' include PCBs, dioxins and furans, plus DDT and other pesticides shown to contribute to developmental defects, cancer and other problems in human and animals.

``The risks are great and the need for action is clear,'' Bush said in a Rose Garden ceremony staged before flowering crabapple trees. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Christie Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, were at the president's side.

``We must work to eliminate or at least severely restrict the release of these toxins without delay,'' added Bush.

Whitman will represent the United States at a formal treaty-signing ceremony planned next month in Stockholm, Sweden.

Most of the ``persistent organic pollutants'' no longer are used in industrial countries such as the United States. But they remain popular in developing countries even though they break down slowly, travel long distances in the environment, and have been linked to cancer and birth defects.

``These chemicals respect no boundaries and can harm Americans even when released abroad,'' Bush said.

Traces of many of the chemicals have been found in pristine areas of the Arctic after having been transported by air currents from hundreds of miles away.

Aides said the president aimed to burnish his ``green'' record on the occasion of this weekend's Earth Day celebrations. Environmentalists have harshly criticized Bush for pulling back new arsenic standards for drinking water, abandoning a campaign pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and rejecting a treaty on global warming.

The pact was crafted in December under the auspices of the U.N. Environment Program during negotiations in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Bush's endorsement won rare praise from Democrats who had pushed the treaty under President Clinton.

``This is a victory for public health,'' said Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee.

Said Bush: ``This treaty shows the possibilities for cooperation among all parties to our environmental debates. Developed nations cooperated with less developed nations, businesses cooperated with environmental groups and now, a Republican administration will continue and complete the work of a Democratic administration,'' Bush said.

Under the treaty, production and use of nine of the 12 chemicals would be banned as soon as the treaty takes effect, probably in four to five years.

About 25 countries would be allowed to continue to use DDT to combat malaria in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines, pending development of safer solutions.

Releases of dioxins and furans _ toxic byproducts of waste burning and industrial production _ would be reduced and eventually eliminated where feasible, according to the treaty.

Other chemicals on the list are polychlorinated biphenyls, (PCBs) and the pesticides aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene and hexachlorobenzene.

The treaty also establishes an international fund, possibly as much as $150 million, to help countries develop and use substitutes to the ``dirty dozen'' chemicals. And it allows for an expansion of the number of chemicals to be covered, although adding to the list would require rigorous scientific review.

The treaty must be ratified by 50 countries to take effect.