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Legislators to Ratify Convention on POPs

China is preparing to ratify an international convention aimed at controlling toxic pollutants.

Officials with China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said Tuesday an application for the ratification has been submitted to the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.

China is already working on a national plan to implement the convention, said Wang Jirong, vice minister of SEPA, during a Sino-US workshop Tuesday on implementation of the convention.

The Stockholm Convention on POPs (persistent organic pollutants) was signed by about 150 countries, including China, in May, 2001. It entered into force on May 17 this year.

POPs are highly toxic chemical substances that threaten human health and the environment. Well-known POPs are DDT used to combat malaria, and PCBs, used as electrical insulators in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment. The convention aims to initially control 12 POPs, including DDT and PCBs.

The country is also working towards developing alternatives to POPs.

Both experts and officials agreed China faces an uphill battle.

Yue Runsheng, an senior official with SEPA's department of international co-operation, said the country should improve its POPs policy and legal systems, management and basic study and risk assessment.

The country also faces a lack of professionals as well as of the funds to develop techniques for substituting, treating and reducing POPs, he said.

Yet the reduction and elimination of POPs require great input.

For example, although China has stopped producing PCBs, it is estimated there are tens of thousands of tons of PCBs across the country.

"We are not sure where such PCBs are and therefore to spot them needs huge input," Yue said.

According to Zang Wenchao, who works with SEPA's division of solid waste and chemicals, China will tighten control over chemicals, including POPs.

New measures will include the establishment of a national chemical and pesticide management system, achieving safe treatment of hazardous chemical waste and seeking more international financial and technical support.

China is one of the world's largest chemical products producers.

Among the nine included in the convention's POPs list, five were once mass produced in China, and four are still produced and used in some places.

POPs have been found in crops, fruits, tea leaves, animals and human bodies.

(China Daily June 9, 2004)

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