International pollution treaty could help reduce pollutants in the north

Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- State officials and environmentalists say a global treaty reached by representatives of 122 countries will help curb the northward flow of pollutants to Alaska.

The agreement was reached Sunday at negotiations in Johannesburg, South Africa. It bans the production and use of nine chemicals, including PCB's, dioxins and certain pesticides. The pollutants have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and a weakening of the immune system.

They tend to migrate northward through the air and water and concentrate in the Arctic, where they take longer to break down because of the cold. Trace amounts of some of these industrial chemicals have turned up in subsistence foods in the Arctic.

Pam Miller, director of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, said she was thrilled with a clause allowing additional chemicals to be banned without scientific proof of their effects. That section of the treaty had been one of the main sticking points, even as late as Saturday night.

''I believe this treaty was one of the only solutions to stop the northward flow of chemicals,'' Miller said. ''What's amazing to me is that they not only reached a treaty, it's a good treaty.''

Miller's group sponsored three Alaska Natives' attendance at the treaty talks. Gov. Tony Knowles also sent three state representatives.

''This treaty is an important step toward protecting our environment and resources, and it was important to have Alaska's team at the table,'' Knowles said in a written statement Monday.

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