The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Structure and Agreements

POPs – persistent organic pollutants - are ‘chemical substances that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment’[1]. With the rise in global trade and transport these substances have appeared in regions where they have never been used of produced. As a result of this global threat to the environment there have been several calls for action to reduce and eliminate releases of these chemicals, culminating in the agreement at the 19th Session of UNEP’s Governing Council in February 1997 that it was necessary to take official international action about the matter. An intergovernmental negotiating committee was set up with a mandate to prepare an internationally legally binding instrument to control and regulate POPs.

Twelve chemicals were initially identified – including eight pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex and toxaphene), two industrial chemicals (PCBs and hexachlorobenzene, which is also a pesticide) and two by-products of combustion and industrial processes (dioxins and furans). An expert group (CEG) was established to develop a science-based criteria and a method for identifying further persistent organic pollutants.

Obligations and follow-up

As well as preparing a legal document regarding POPs, UNEP was required to initiate immediate action on developing guidelines and exchange of information relating to managing POPs and developing possible replacements for these chemicals. This was to be achieved through exchange of technical reports (and providing/obtaining expertise to assist in producing and reviewing those reports); providing/obtaining expertise in awareness-raising, training, capacity-building and co-operative programmes and aspects of management of POPs.

The key areas to be focussed upon are:

Alternatives to pesticide POPs, including alternative chemicals, practices and technologies.
Alternatives to industrial POPs, including alternative chemicals, practices and technologies.
Identification of sources of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and of PCB destruction and management.
Identification of sources of dioxins and furans.
Identification of various aspects of dioxins/furans management.
General information exchange on POPs.

Review Process

The Convention is due to be adopted and opened for signing at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants on 22nd-23rd May 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden. The treaty will enter into force after at least fifty governments have ratified it.

Click on the link below to go to the POPs website:


For information on the financing of POPs negotiations, click on the links below:




[1] UN POPs website - http://www.chem.unep.ch/pops/default.html


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