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Stockholm Convention

Lead Author
Maria M. Williams


The "Dirty Dozen"

1 - Aldrin ¹
2 - Chlordane ¹
3 - DDT(Dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane) ¹
4 - Dieldrin ¹
5 - Endrin ¹
6 - Heptachlor ¹
7 - Hexachlorobenzene ¹,²
8 - Mirex¹
9 - Toxaphene¹
10 - PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) ¹,²
11 - Dioxin (Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins) ²
12 - Furans (Polychlorinated dibenzofurans) ²

(KEY: 1-Intentionally Produced. 2-Unintentionally Produced - Result from some industrial processes and combustion.)

The Stockholm Convention is designed to lead to a gradual decrease of the presence of persistent organic pollutants in the environment.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which was adopted May 23, 2001 and entered into force on May 17, 2004, is a global treaty whose purpose is to safeguard human health and the environment from highly harmful chemicals that persist in the environment and affect the well-being of humans as well as wildlife. The Convention requires parties to eliminate and/or reduce POPs, which have a potential of causing devastating effects such as cancer and diminished intelligence and have the ability to travel over great distances.

While the Convention initially focused on 12 intentionally and unintentionally produced chemicals (the "Dirty Dozen"), the Convention began adding additional substances to the agreement in May of 2009 and will continue to do so. A current list of substances covered by the Convention is available here:

The Stockholm Convention is managed by the United Nations Environment Program and its Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland. UNEP is the leading international environmental entity that supports the agenda and implementation of environmental sustainability for the United Nations. The COP, or the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention, governs the POPs Convention, with its members being the Convention's Parties.

(Green: State Parties to the Stockholm Convention as of May 2009. Image from Wikipedia.)

The role of Parties is to implement the obligations of the Convention, including eliminating or restricting the production and use of the intentionally produced POPs, prohibiting and eliminating production and use or import of POPs, conducting research, identifying areas contaminated with POPs, and providing financial support and incentives for the Convention. The process of becoming a Party begins with a state or regional economic integration organization submitting a means of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the depositary. Official contact points and national focal points are nominated to carry out administrative, communications, and information exchange procedures.

Intentionally Produced POPs

The Convention requires Parties to eliminate or restrict the production and use of the intentionally produced POPs, subject to specified exemptions, with special provisions for DDT and PCBs.

DDT is placed in the restriction annex, which means that its production and use is restricted to disease-vector control. The Convention also establishes a public DDT registry of users and producers, and it encourages the development of safe, effective, affordable, and environmentally friendly alternatives.

For PCBs, the Convention prohibits new PCB production and envisages phasing out electrical equipment that contains high concentrations of PCBs by 2025.


The Convention prohibits trade in POPs chemicals for which Parties have eliminated production and use. Such POPs may be exported only for environmentally sound disposal. For those POPs that one or more Parties continue to produce or use pursuant to specific exemptions, the Convention allows export of such POPs only to those Parties that have an allowed use exemption under the Convention and those non-Parties that provide certification that they will minimize or prevent environmental releases and destroy or dispose of the POPs in an environmentally sound manner.
Exemptions/Exceptions for Intentionally Produced POPs

The Convention generally exempts from the previously described requirements those quantities of intentionally produced POPs that:

1. Are used for laboratory-scale research or as a reference standard.
2. Occur as unintentional trace contaminants in products and articles.
3. Are used in closed-system, site-limited processes.
4. Exist in articles manufactured or already in use on the date that the Convention enters into force for that Party.

The Convention also allows Parties to register for specific exemptions on a country-by-country basis. These exemptions are subject to review and expire after 5 years, unless extended by the Conference of Parties (COP).

Coming to Terms With Treaties

Treaties are binding agreements concluded by sovereign governments and governed by international law. They can be called by different names, such as a "treaty" or "convention." Once a treaty has been negotiated, it is available for signature by governments. Each country then takes the next step toward implementing the treaty according to its distinct legal requirements. In the United States, treaties such as the Stockholm Convention need to be submitted by the President to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.

Once a government has completed its domestic legal requirements for ratification, including the enactment of any necessary implementing legislation, it deposits an instrument of ratification to the treaty's depositary. A certain number of countries must deposit an instrument of ratification before the treaty enters into force, at which point it becomes effective and binding on those countries. The Stockholm Convention entered into force in 2004, when 50 countries had deposited an instrument of ratification. These countries then became Parties to the treaty. The U.S. Senate has not yet ratified the Stockholm Convention nor has implementing legislation been passed by the relevant committees of jurisdiction. Once those steps have been taken, the United States can deposit its instrument of ratification to become a Party of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Some treaties set up an institutional framework. The Stockholm Convention establishes a Conference of Parties (COP), which meets at determined intervals and is assisted by a Secretariat, an entity that provides support for COP activities. The COP is made up of representatives from each government that has ratified the treaty.

Unintentionally Produced POPs

The Convention calls upon Parties to take certain specified measures to reduce releases of unintentionally produced POPs with the goal of their continuing minimization and, where feasible, ultimate elimination. It specifically requires Parties to:

1. Develop national action plans to address the release of these POPs.
2. Promote the development of preventative measures.
3. Apply best available techniques (BAT) for certain new pollution sources (e.g., municipal, hospital, and hazardous waste incinerators) within 4 years after the Convention enters into force. Parties must also promote BAT and best environmental practices for other new and existing sources.

POPs Wastes

Among other things, the Convention requires Parties to develop appropriate strategies for identifying:

1. Stockpiles consisting of or containing intentionally produced POPs chemicals.
2. Products and articles in use and wastes consisting of, containing, or contaminated with any POPs chemical.
3. Sites contaminated with POPs.

It also requires Parties to take appropriate measures so that POPs wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner. This includes both destruction and disposal techniques. Although remediation of contaminated sites is not required, any such remediation must be performed in an environmentally sound manner.

Financial and Technical Assistance

The Convention creates a flexible system of technical and financial aid to help developing countries and countries with economies in transition to meet their obligations. Although the Convention does not create a new fund or establish specific assessments, developed countries are to collectively provide new and additional financial resources. These funds will enable developing country Parties to meet the agreed full incremental costs of implementing measures to fulfill their obligations under the Convention. On an interim basis, the Convention designates the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as the primary, but not exclusive, component of the financial mechanism. The GEF is a financial mechanism established to address global environmental threats.

The Convention also specifies that developed countries provide technical assistance and capacity building to help developing countries and countries with economies in transition meet their obligations.

Process for Adding New Chemicals

New chemicals can be added to the treaty based on a scientific review procedure that involves Parties and interested observers. The basic steps of the process are as follows:

1. When a Party nominates a chemical, the proposal is sent to a scientific review committee comprised of government- designated experts, who apply the Convention's screening criteria (for persistence, bioaccumulation, toxicity, and long-range transport).
2. If the chemical meets the screening criteria, the committee prepares a risk profile for the chemical.
3. If, on the basis of the risk profile, the committee finds that the "chemical is likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport to lead to significant adverse human health and/or environmental effects such that global action is warranted," the committee prepares a risk management evaluation that considers socio-economic factors.
4. Based on the risk profile and the risk management evaluation, the review committee makes a recommendation to the COP whether the chemical should be listed or not listed under the Convention.
5. The COP makes the final decision -by three-fourths majority - as to whether the chemical will be listed under the Convention.

The decision of the COP to add a chemical to the treaty is binding on all Parties 1 year later, except for (a) Parties that "opt out" of this decision within the 1-year period, or (b) Parties that choose to invoke a separate "opt in" procedure under which they are not bound until they affirmatively accept a new obligation. The COP began adding new chemicals to the agreement in May of 2009.

Monitoring Process

The Convention provides for an effectiveness evaluation, based on a POPs monitoring and data collection effort that will use existing monitoring programs and mechanisms to the extent possible.

References and External Links

US EPA International Programs: Persistent Organic Pollutants: A Global Issue, A Global Response

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, official site

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Chemicals Programme

International POPs Elimination Network: Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

Arctic Council

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme

Also see our list of links on our main law and regulations page.

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