UN Creates A Path For A Caribbean Free Of Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Caribbean governments have made progress in reducing the presence of harmful, cancer-causing chemicals in their environments, according to the United Nations. 

The governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago all participated in a seven-year, $9 million UN program funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The completion of the seven-year program has increased the ability of these eight participating countries to sample and inventory “persistent organic pollutants” known as POPs. These are long-lasting, accumulative chemicals that pollute the Caribbean, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

POPs can harm the environment and increase the risk of cancer, reproductive disorders, immune system issues and birth defects, according to the UN Agency. 

The chemicals entered the Caribbean via imported pesticides, firefighting foams, electrical equipment, and used vehicles. According to UNIDO, these compounds are often unintentionally leached due to poor waste management practices, but they also come from the oil and gas industry.

“Lack of resources, weak institutional capacity and non-existent or inadequate regulatory frameworks have been stumbling blocks for the Caribbean when it comes to chemicals and waste management,” UNIDO Industrial Development Officer Alfredo Cueva said in a statement.

In a region where limited resources have made environmentally sound management   of chemicals and hazardous waste difficult, the project for the “Development and Sustainable Management Mechanism for POPs in the Caribbean” has created inventories of POP chemicals, trained hundreds of personnel and fostered new national programs, including legislation, to help countries meet their commitments and obligations, according to UNIDO. The project’s outcomes have also influenced changes in the general public’s behavior toward waste management.

The participating Caribbean countries are all parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which was signed in May 2001. It requires signatory nations to phase out PCB use in equipment by 2025 and ensure its elimination altogether by 2028.

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