It’s time to act on POPs

Friday, January 05, 2018

Having very serious and long term effects on human health, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are becoming very common in The Gambia; as they can be found in public places like lumos and markets. Therefore, we must act now to ensure their effective management.

POPs are group of organic synthetic chemicals that are very persistent, very toxic, bio-accumulative and they travel very far within the environment. They cause detrimental acute and long term effects to human health and the wildlife. They also affect the environment we live in.

The Gambia government has ratified many international and multilateral environmental agreements as a demonstration of its commitment in the global effort for the sound management of the environment.

Such agreements and conventions include the Stockholm Convention, the Bamako Convention, the Montreal Protocol, and the sub-regional common regulation for registration of pesticides in the Sahel region.

The Stockholm Convention is multilateral chemical treaty aimed at protecting human health and the environment form a group of severely toxic chemicals known as POPs. 

The agreements The Gambia ratified are geared towards reducing the movement of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent the transfer of hazardous waste from developed to least developed countries.

The Gambia is a predominantly an agricultural country and depends heavily on pesticides and plant growth regulators to enhance agricultural productivity to control pest.

The country also recognises the need to control and advocate for sound use of chemicals as inscribed in the Strategic Approach for the International  Chemical Management (SAICM) and the Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides Control and Management Act 1994.

POPS are very dangerous – an organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of their persistence, POPs bio-accumulate with potential adverse impacts on human health and the environment.

According to national Implementation Plan under Stockholm Convention on POPS for The Gambia, health effects of POPs chemicals on humans may include cancer and allergies among others.

The implementation plan pointed out that with the evidence that POPs are transported to regions where they have never been used or produced, the international community decided in 1997 to work towards a convention that will serve as an international legally binding instrument to reduce and /or eliminate releases of twelve POPs identified by a UNEP Governing Council Decision.

Some of these substances are pesticides, while others are industrial chemicals or unwanted by-products of industrial processes or combustion.

The initial list of POPs contains nine pesticides including aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, Endrin, Toxaphene, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzen, and mirex. combustion by-products, dioxins and furans.

The UNEP Governing Council also requested that criteria and a procedure be developed to identify further POPs as candidates for international action.