The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants [JE1] is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that persist in the environment for a long time, are transported long distances across national boundaries, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or the environment.
Exposure to these so-called Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, harm to the immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease, and damages to the central and peripheral nervous systems, among others.
In response to this global problem, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was adopted on 22 May 2001 and entered into force on 17 May 2004. The Convention requires its parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. For more information on the Stockholm Convention, go to http://chm.pops.int
One the provisions of the Convention (Article 5) requires each party to reduce or eliminate releases from unintentionally produced POPs (UPOPs) in Annex C. Among the UPOPs are polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans. Annex C lists medical waste incinerators within its Part II source category of sources with the potential for comparatively high formation and release of UPOPs. Annex C lists the open burning of waste within its Part III source category of sources that can unintentionally form and release POPs to the environment.
Under Article 5 of the Stockholm Convention, Parties are obliged to require the use of best available techniques (BAT) for new facilities within the Part II source category; and are obliged to promote BAT and best environmental practices (BEP) for all new and existing sources within both Part II and Part III source categories. The guidelines for BAT/BEP can be found here[JE2] .
Annex C additionally states that when Parties are considering proposals to construct new facilities using processes that release UPOPs (e.g., medical waste incinerators), “priority consideration should be given to alternative processes, techniques or practices that have similar usefulness but which avoid the formation and release of such chemicals.”
To assist developing countries in implementing the provisions of the Convention, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was designated the institution that would serve as the financial mechanism under the treaty. The GEF is a partnership for international cooperation involving 183 countries working together with international agencies, civil society organizations and the private sector to address global environmental problems. The UNDP GEF Project on Global Healthcare Waste was funded by the GEF and implemented by the United Nations Development Program in cooperation with the World Health Organization and the international NGO Health Care Without Harm. For more information on the GEF, go to http://www.thegef.org
[JE1]Link to the text of the treaty in the Policies section
[JE2]Link to the BAT/BEP guidelines in Policies section