A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that exposure to very low doses of certain POPs – which are among the most toxic substances ever created – can lead to cancer, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, diseases of the immune system, reproductive disorders, and interference with normal infant and child development.
Another concern is the growing accumulation of unwanted and obsolete stockpiles of pesticides and toxic chemicals, particularly in developing countries. Dump sites and toxic drums from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s are now decaying and leaching chemicals into the soil and poisoning water resources, wildlife, and people. A great deal of infrastructure and equipment such as electrical transformers and capacitors are also at or near the end of their useful lives and may leak dangerous chemicals such as PCBs.
- Man-made – POPs are either used as pesticides, consumed by industry, or generated unintentionally as by-products of various industrial processes.
- Toxic – Of all the pollutants released into the environment every year by human activity, persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, are among the most dangerous. They are highly toxic, causing an array of adverse effects, notably death, disease, and birth defects among humans and animals.
- Persistent – These highly stable compounds can last for years or decades before breaking down.
- Mobile – They circulate globally through a process known as the “grasshopper effect”. POPs released in one part of the world can, through a repeated (and often seasonal) process of evaporation, deposit, evaporation, deposit, be transported through the atmosphere to regions far away from the original source.
- Bioaccumulative – In addition, POPs concentrate in living organisms through another process called bioaccumulation. Though not soluble in water, POPs are readily absorbed in fatty tissue, where concentrations can become magnified by up to 70,000 times the background levels.
The 12 POPs recognized as requiring the most urgent action are: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin , endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene , PCBs and dioxins and furans.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
- Hexachlorobenzene (HCB)
- Dioxins | Furans