Ban on Twelve Chemicals

By Jill Moss

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

One-hundred-twenty-two countries have agreed to an international ban on twelve extremely dangerous chemicals. The treaty was reached during a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this month. The United Nations Environmental Program organized the meeting.

Scientists say the banned chemicals are the most dangerous in the world. They include eight chemicals to kill insects and four chemicals used in, or produced by, industrial processes. The chemicals have been linked to birth defects, other genetic abnormalities and cancer. Industrial countries have agreed to pay about one-hundred-fifty million dollars a year to help poor countries find substitutes for the banned chemicals.

The treaty will be signed in May in Stockholm, Sweden. However, officials say it will probably not take effect for another four or five years. The governments of fifty countries, including the United States, must approve the treaty before it will take effect.

Industrial countries already have banned most of the twelve chemicals. However, about twenty-five developing countries will still be able to use one of the banned substances, D-D-T. Developing countries use D-D-T to kill mosquitoes, which spread the disease malaria. D-D-T will be permitted only until safer substitutes are developed. Many countries have banned the use of D-D-T in agriculture because of its harmful effects on fish and wildlife.

Even though D-D-T is considered dangerous, the World Health Organization says its use in developing countries has been helpful. For example, Sri Lanka and South Africa banned D-D-T several years ago. But the rates of malaria in those countries rose sharply. As a result, the South African government renewed D-D-T use last year. The number of malaria cases in the country is now dropping.

The World Health Organization says about five-hundred-million people are infected with malaria each year. More than two-million victims die. Most of the deaths are among children in Africa. Jean-Paul Clark is an official with the World Health Organization's program to fight malaria. He says banning the production of D-D-T would hurt the campaign to reduce the number of deaths from the disease.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Jill Moss.

Voice of America Special English