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UN-sponsored meeting bans nine chemicals – but not DDT

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To protect the environment, as well as the health of people and animals, representatives of 150 countries have just agreed to add nine chemicals to a list of persistent organic pollutants, or POPS, that are prohibited under the Stockholm Convention, an environmental treaty that took effect in 2004.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), explains the significance of the new agreement:

"Some of these chemicals, on their own, may not show up on the radar of public health. But, in their cumulative and interactive nature in the way that they are absorbed by living organisms, be they plants, animals or human beings, they can develop far-reaching consequences. But just five years after this Convention having come into force, we will have nine new chemicals added to the list of those that the world community agrees we need to control and ultimately get rid of or manage them more effectively," he said.

Because the list originally contained 12 chemicals (you can see what they are by clicking here), they're usually referred to as the Dirty Dozen. Most are supposed to be eliminated, but one is restricted (DDT, which may be used for malaria control). That use of DDT for public health reasons was continued under the new agreement. (However, the UN announced a DDT-free malaria-control initiative last week.)

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