Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are among the most dangerous chemicals that humans release into the environment. They are pesticides, industrial chemicals or unwanted by-products of industrial processes. While POPs have been in use for decades, the world has only recently learned about their more deadly qualities.
Armed with knowledge about the dangers of POPs, many countries began limiting or banning their production, use and release. These efforts culminated in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. More than 180 countries now agree to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. Read more+
POPs are highly toxic, and can cause severe health problems, even at low doses. These impacts include cancer, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders and disruption of the immune system. These synthetic chemicals can enter the womb, exposing the unborn to risk during the most vulnerable stages of development. POPs travel as far as the northern pole and accumulate in marine mammals and the people of the region.
POPs can travel great distances through the air, water and migratory animals.
POPs are long-lasting. They accumulate in air, water and sediments, and don’t easily go away. For this reason, POPs can affect people in a community over several generations.
What We Do
The GEF is the financial mechanism for implementing the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. As such, the GEF finances programs and projects to help developing country Parties and CEITs to meet their convention obligations.
The convention, which controls the production and use of POPs, originally had 12 controlled POPs substances, including DDT, PCB and Dioxins and Furans. At COPs 4, 5, 6 and 7, the convention added a combined 14 new POPs. In 2014, in response to a request at the sixth session of the Conference of the Parties in 2013, the GEF increased the overall amount of funding to the Chemicals focal area.
GEF projects focused on persistent organic pollutants have resulted in the sound disposal of more than 200,000 tons of POPs legacy in developing countries. Additionally, through our POPs programming, the GEF indirectly supports both two legally binding instruments to confront the challenge of chemicals and waste:
- The Basel Convention on Controlling Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. This convention, which predates the Stockholm Convention, deals with the international movement of hazardous waste and its disposal. Since POPs waste are treated as Basel Wastes, the GEF’s support to the Stockholm Convention has indirectly supported implementation of the Basel Convention.
- The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. This convention deals with the control in trade of hazardous and harmful chemicals. Since the convention controls all POPs for the purpose of trade, the GEF’s support to help Parties use import and export bans has indirectly supported implementation of the Rotterdam Convention.
In addition, the GEF supports a non-legally binding instrument: the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). In 2006, governments adopted the SAICM to harmonize global management of the multiple chemical conventions. The SAICM process identifies emerging chemical issues of global concern. It provides a framework to operationalize the implementation of an integrated approach to managing harmful chemicals and waste. In response to an invitation to support the SAICM, the GEF has provided support to manage e-waste, lead in paints and chemicals in products.