Reviews | Biden is committed to protecting people and the environment from toxic chemicals – now is the time to act
When President Biden took office, he pledged to protect people and the environment from the toxic chemicals that now plague communities across the United States. If he is serious about this promise, then his administration must align its foreign policy with its domestic commitments when it participates in the next meeting of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, an international treaty that bans hazardous pollutants. that persist in the environment.
The Biden administration can change course and reposition the United States as a force for environmental justice on the world stage.
As countries prepare for a substantial meeting early next year, the United States is behaving like a filibuster in the room. With Biden’s candidate for head of the EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs (OITA) on the verge of Senate approval, the EPA is well positioned to act now and reverse this dangerous pattern of obstructionism .
Over 180 countries, but not the United States, are parties to the Stockholm Convention. Instead, the United States is an “observer”. While the United States is not a party to and is not bound by the convention’s restrictions, our government has a long history of hampering the convention’s efforts to ban some of the most dangerous toxic chemicals.
For the past 12 years, the United States has exploited its “observer” status to oppose the addition of at least three pesticides to the list of regulated chemicals. Inexplicably, the United States is using its geopolitical power to prevent other countries from protecting their citizens and the global environment from pesticides with toxic effects on the brain.
Additionally, the United States is undermining efforts by convention signatories to ban a dangerous flame retardant chemical called dechloran plus (DP), a plastic additive that has toxic effects on the brain, liver and endocrine system and can harm to fetal development. . DP cannot be cleaned up or contained once it is released. In fact, it migrates thousands of kilometers from where it is released and concentrates in the polar regions, a phenomenon called global distillation. Alaska has the highest airborne concentrations of DP in the country, although it is thousands of kilometers from DP release sites. As such, PD endangers the health of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic who, without action by the international community, cannot prevent the release of PD thousands of kilometers from their homes.
U.S. interference in listing DP began under the Trump administration, when Environmental Protection Agency officials cast doubt on the substantial scientific evidence for the toxicity of DP.
But the Biden administration can change course and reposition the United States as a force for environmental justice on the world stage. At their next meeting in January, members of the Stockholm Convention expert committee will decide whether to recommend a ban on DP and take an important step towards protecting people around the world from this chemical. dangerous. And even though the convention’s rulings are not applicable in the United States, the fact that DP is persistent and easily migrates to the Arctic means that eliminating its use overseas will protect communities in the United States. who are disproportionately exposed to this persistent and toxic chemical.
DP has already polluted valuable natural resources in the United States through domestic manufacturing releases. The Great Lakes region has the highest levels of DP sediment contamination in the country, no doubt due to releases from DP manufacturing by the Niagara Falls facility of the Occidental Chemical Company, the same facility of New York City that sparked the Love Channel environmental disaster in the 1970s. DP has also contaminated our food supply – high levels of DP have been detected in American baby food.
Biden administration has opportunity to deliver on pledge to strengthen health and environmental protection by supporting bans of dangerous chemicals like DP, and to reverse the country’s obstruction of global efforts to do it. The point is, this obstructionism cannot compare to the Biden administration’s commitments to restore principled American leadership on the world stage and to follow science to protect public health and the environment.