Czech Senate Approves Conventions on Toxic Substances

9.5.2002 - Prague

Upper Chamber of the Czech Parliament approved today (on the 9th May) ratification of 3 important international treaties related to environmental protection. First of all it is the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants.

Of 63 present senators (of total number of 81 Senate members), 54 voted for the ratification. The other two approved documents were two Protocols of Convention on Distanced Air Pollution - first on persistent organic pollutants and second on heavy metals.

Ratification of the Stockholm Convention was requested by petition Toxic Free Future, signed by 8.512 citizens including 70 local, district and regional deputies - for instance mayor of Zlin and Uherske Hradiste and deputy of mayor of Prague and several deputies of district administrators (heads of regions).

Ratification of the Stockholm Convention is going to have a practical impact on improvement of Czech Republic´s environment. "For instance waste incinerators will have to change their existing technologies and to reduce dioxin releases. Incinerators with worst technologies will be forced to stop operating. Another impact will be a stricter control of waste containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and stronger supervising over potential emission of hexachlorobenzene. The latter chemicals belong to the most hazardous toxics," said Jindrich Petrlik, head of ARNIKA´s Toxic Free Future project, and reminded recent leakage of hexachlorobenzene from a truck on D8 motorway on 30th April. The accident happened when the hazardous chemicals was transported to be destroyed most probably in hazardous waste incinerator. But incineration of hexachlorobenzene again creates dioxins, says Petrlík. "But there is a way out from this circle - a chemical disintegration of the hazardous chemicals to less hazardous compounds in closed cycles. It is to be tested in the Slovak Republic within projects connected with fulfillment of the Stockholm Convention by UNIDO," head of the Toxic Free Future campaign added.

Dioxins, similarly as the PCBs and hexachlorobenzene are dangerous even in trace concentrations. They are harmful for immunity and endocrine system, some of the chemicals are carcinogenic. They usually get into human organism through food chain, in which 80% of them toxics get from the atmosphere. Dioxins appear for example as byproducts in chemical processes with a use of chlorine, or by incineration of chlorinated substances (within waste incineration and in metallurgy). The PCBs are still present in transformers and capacitors in the Czech Republic. According to estimates, there were 50.000 tonnes of waste containing PCBs in the Czech Republic in 1995. Dioxins are to a large extent produced also in municipal waste incinerator in Liberec. Concentrations of the PCBs in environment are a serious problem in Ostrava.

Stockholm Convention is a new international agreement on the 12 most toxic substances in the world (so called persistent organic pollutants). The treaty, signed on the 23rd of May 2001, bans 8 pesticides and 2 industrial chemicals. It also introduces a duty of elimination of environmental contamination by dioxins and furans which emerge for example during incineration of chlorinated substances or as undesired byproduct of some of chemical processes. Czech Republic has signed the convention together with Poland, Slovenia, Ukraine, member states of the EU and the USA (altogether 70 states) in Stockholm. The convention has been so far ratified by 6 states.


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