PROTOCOL ON HEAVY METALS ENTERS INTO FORCE, NEW WORK
ON PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS AGREED
(Reissued as received)
GENEVA, 23 December -- The 19 new Parties to the Protocol on Heavy Metals are to celebrate its entry into force next Monday, 29 December.
The Protocol, signed by 35 countries and the European Union at its adoption in Aarhus, Denmark, in 1998, is the seventh to take effect under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
Since the announcement earlier in the year that the Protocol would enter into force, three more countries –- Austria, Bulgaria and Monaco –- have ratified it. All 19 Parties, i.e. Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and the European Community, are expected to attend the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol, which will take place at the time of the next session of the Convention’s Executive Body scheduled for December 2004. Their discussions are likely to focus on the three priority metals covered by the Protocol –- lead, cadmium and mercury.
Meanwhile, new work on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) has already been agreed at the first meeting of the Parties to the 1998 Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which took place in Geneva in conjunction with the Convention’s most recent session of its Executive Body.
This Protocol became effective in October and this was the first chance for countries to consider future work on these toxic substances. They agreed a work-plan for 2004, targeted at reviewing the provisions of the Protocol to see if they are effective, and to establish a new Task Force on POPs, which will also address longer-term work. The Task Force will meet in March.
Work beyond 2004 will consider new POPs for addition to the current list of those banned or restricted under the terms of the Protocol. Already Norway has nominated pentaBDE, while other countries are lining up to suggest other POPs to add to the list.
The POPs and heavy metals in the Protocols have a wide range of harmful effects on man and on wildlife. Some POPs are believed to cause birth defects or affect physical and intellectual development, some are carcinogenic, whilst others may harm the immune system. Foetuses and infants are particularly at risk, exposed through the placenta or breast milk. The metals lead, cadmium and mercury have all been identified as having long-term effects on human health.
For more information, please contact: Keith BULL, Environment and Human Settlements Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Palais des Nations, office 346, CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland; tel.: +41(0)22 917 23 54, fax: +41(0)22 907 06 21, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web site: http://www.unece.org/env/lrtap/
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