Management of Pesticide Waste a Global Problem



The unsustainable life cycle management of pesticides during the past seven decades has created huge stockpiles of these (and other toxic) chemicals across much of the globe, including Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. The journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research has published a special series of articles and reports from the International HCH & Pesticides Association (IHPA), titled “The legacy of pesticides and POPs stockpiles — a threat to health and the environment.” Stockpiles have accumulated because some products have been banned for health or environmental reasons, leaving stocks (aka waste) that are often stored inadequately, and which deteriorate and migrate to contaminate the environment and put people at risk. Those affected are very often in poor, rural communities that may be unaware of the threat in their midst. Beyond Pesticides covered this “chemical time bomb” problem in 2004 and again nearly a decade ago.

The special issue of Environmental Science and Pollution Research responds to multiple fronts on this problem of accumulation and storage of toxic compounds, identifying the two largest issues as: (1) the stockpile of some 4–7 million tons of hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) waste from lindane production; and the 240,000 tons of pesticides, no longer used, that are accumulating in the EECCA countries (in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus region) — without safety regulations to control their storage and release into the environment. [Note: a tonne is 1,000 kg; a North American ton is 907.1847 kg.] These “legacy” stockpiles of toxic chemicals represent enormous risks to human and environmental health and safety.

POPs — persistent organic pollutants — were the subject of a 2001 international treaty, The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The treaty was the culmination of negotiations conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which launched the treaty process in 1998. It aimed to eliminate or restrict the production and use of POPs, chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web and particularly in fatty tissues, and pose risks to human health and the environment. Pesticides represent a significant portion of compounds designated as POPs.

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