Alaskans to attend treaty talks on poisons

Posted: Friday, December 01, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Six Alaskans will attend treaty talks on poisons next week to tell how toxic chemicals accumulate in the state even though they're not generated here.

Three government representatives and three Alaska Natives are traveling to South Africa to observe and testify at the final round of talks to phase out 12 of the planet's worst poisons, known as the dirty dozen.

The talks will be from Dec. 3 through Dec. 9 in Johannesburg, with the goal of producing a signed treaty by May.

The chemicals to be eliminated include DDT, PCBs, dioxins and other industrial compounds known to cause cancer, reproductive problems and a weakening of the immune system. Some of those contaminants have been found in fish and other Alaska subsistence foods.

Though many Western countries have banned the chemicals, other countries continue use them. For example, DDT is widely used in central Africa to prevent malaria.

Alaska delegates will not vote but want to encourage the U.S. government team to lobby for a strong treaty.

Alaska has a stake in the outcome because ''persistent organic pollutants,'' as the chemicals are called, tend to travel long distances through the air and water and concentrate in the Arctic, where they take longer to break down because of the cold.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Michele Brown will attend the talks with Gov. Tony Knowles' chief of staff, Jim Ayers, and Will Mayo, the governor's adviser on Native issues.

The Alaska Community Action on Toxics is helping to pay for the three Alaska Native representatives to go. They include Shawna Larson of Port Graham and Chickaloon, Violet Yeaton of Port Graham and Evon Peter of Arctic Village.

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