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POPs may be hazardous to your lifestyle

By Henry Lamb
web posted April 30, 2001

It's official. In a Rose Garden photo op, April 19, the President, Secretary of State, and EPA Administrator, announced the U.S.'s intention to sign the U.N. Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), in ceremonies in Stockholm, May 22-23.

The announcement, one of several recent pro-green initiatives, comes on the heels of massive criticism of the Bush administration for perceived "anti-environmental" actions, especially for walking away from the Kyoto Protocol deliberations. The POPs treaty has received very little media attention and is potentially as destructive as the Kyoto Protocol.

Brooks Yeager headed the U.S. delegation that negotiated this treaty. Yeager served as Vice President of Government Relations for the Audubon Society before joining the Clinton administration in 1993. He was praised by the Bush administration for his good work.

The treaty identifies eight chemicals that are to be banned outright. Most are used in pesticides. Chlordane and DDT, already banned in the U.S., are among the chemicals to be banned. Of far more concern, are the four chemicals identified to be "controlled." They are: PCBs, Hexachlorobenzene, Dioxins, and Furans.

It is worth noting, that the common practice among extreme green policy makers is to get the camel's nose under the tent with any kind of bland policy mechanism, and then work to expand. The Endangered Species Act was sold on the basis of protecting the bald eagle; now several hundred odd-ball bugs are protected, and several thousand more are on the waiting list to be protected.

The Vienna Convention on Ozone Depleting Substances was ratified on the basis that compliance was voluntary, but immediately, the Montreal Protocol made it legally binding, and required the banning of Freon and certain halogens.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change whizzed through the U.S. Senate, because compliance was voluntary. But the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties produced the Berlin Mandate to create a legally binding Kyoto Protocol.

The POPs convention bans only eight chemicals initially, and identifies four to be controlled. The Conference of the Parties to this Convention will identify additional chemicals whenever they wish, and will set the policies for controlling others.

Keep in mind that principle #8 of the Rio Declaration, from which Agenda 21 arises, requires the reduction and elimination of "...unsustainable patterns of production and consumption ...." Agenda 21 is not legally binding; treaties are. The POPs treaty can be used to bring to a halt patterns of production and consumption that the U.N. has declared to be unsustainable.

There is no single chemical named "dioxin." The term "dioxin" applies to a family of about 75 compounds, many of which are produced when organic material is burned, and as by-products of various manufacturing processes. Some of these dioxins are toxic in some concentration, particularly TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetra-chlorodibenzo-p-dioxin); others are not toxic at all. The entire family of dioxins, however, has been deliberately vilified, and painted by environmental extremists, as brutal, cancer-causing killers.

The processes that produce PVC pipe, and most plastics, use chlorine. Chlorine is not on the list of chemicals to be banned. Greenpeace, and the World Wildlife Fund, have been on an unsuccessful crusade for years to ban chlorine. Because chlorine is used to purify about 98% of the public water supply, and in the production of so many beneficial products, head-on efforts to ban chlorine have had no success.

The POPs treaty has the potential to force an end to the use of chlorine, by using a back-door approach; by controlling the production of dioxins, which the treaty authorizes and the public has been conditioned to accept, the Conference of the Parties to the treaty can control chlorine. By controlling what comes out the end of the pipe, the controller controls what goes into the pipe.

This is the system used by the EPA and environmental extremists to control which chemicals and fertilizers farmers use on their crops. The TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) program, is a back-door way to control what farmers put on the ground. By regulating the maximum quantity of a particular chemical that may be in a stream, the regulator can control the use of that chemical by any one whose ground water drains into the stream.

Chlorine was targeted to be banned in the early 1990s by Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. The proposed method at that time was to list chlorine as one of the chemicals that could not be found in municipal ground water runoff, under the NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) program. Then-Congressman Bill Richardson tried unsuccessfully in two sessions of Congress to enact this legislation.

Environmental extremists are never defeated; they are sometimes delayed, but always come back again with the same objective wrapped in a new program. The POPs treaty is far more potent than the NPDES, or the TMDL programs in the U.S, as a weapon to end the use of chlorine, and shut down industry to force a reduction or elimination of "unsustainable patterns of production and consumption."

Consider the loss of PVC plastics. It is almost impossible to comprehend a world without plastic. Narrow the consideration to just PVC pipe - and try to imagine the world without it. Before PVC, galvanized pipe supplied water to kitchens and bathrooms. The pipe itself was quite expensive, and the laborers who installed it commanded premium wages. Were we forced to return to galvanized pipe, the cost of homes would soar.

The metal required to make the pipe would not be available in sufficient quantities to meet the demand because the environmental extremists have shut down nearly all mining operations.

Consider packaging, and medical supplies – without plastic. Are housewives ready to go back to waxed paper and aluminum foil? Look around the room at what you would have to do without if plastics were banned. Environmental extremists know that the public would never allow a head-on attack on plastic. But the public will allow a treaty to control cancer-causing dioxins. Once the treaty is in place, the legal authority is established, and little by little, the noose can (and will) be tightened around the production and consumption patterns around the world, particularly in the United states.

The POPs treaty, by virtue of authorizing control over these four chemicals, gives to the Conference of the Parties, the authority to set policies which can govern the production of most coatings and paints, glues, lubricants, a wide range of construction materials, appliances, household furnishings, medicines, medical supplies, pesticides, herbicides, and other products that Americans have come to rely on.

The treaty will have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate, which has now perfected a process which results in ratification without any debate, or a recorded vote. The previous Senate ratified 34 treaties in one fell swoop on October 18, by a voice vote and a show of hands. Included in the package was the U.N. Convention on Desertification.,

Proponents of the POPs treaty could well use this process again and get the treaty ratified with virtually no opportunity to even register opposition or examine the possible negative consequences. The treaty will become international law when it is ratified by 50 nations, quite probably before the Rio+10 celebration in Johannesburg, South Africa in the Summer of 2002.

The Treaty will create a permanent Secretariat, with a permanent annual budget, that will grow each year, as has every other treaty secretariat since 1992. The growing staff will have to identify new chemicals to ban and control, and monitor to justify their existence. It is yet another mechanism created within the United Nations to reach its tentacles out to control yet another facet of human life.

This is the essence of global governance in progress.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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