Persistent Organic Pollutants, known as POPs, are toxic, long-lasting and accumulative chemicals proven to have an adverse effect on human health and the environment across the globe. Exposure to even low levels of these chemicals in food or the air can lead to increased cancer risk, reproductive disorders, alteration of the immune system and increased birth defects.
The most commonly encountered POPs are organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT, industrial chemicals, most notably polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), as well as unintentional by-products of many industrial processes, such as those commonly known as 'dioxins'.
Several countries of the Caribbean are Parties to the Stockholm Convention on POPs and have pledged to reduce or eliminate their production, use, and/or release. However, very little action has been taken at the national level to implement or comply with the Convention. A lack of resources, weak institutional capacity, and inadequate regulatory frameworks are recognized as some of the contributing factors to the limited POPs management in the region.
“Given our small size, the fragility of our ecosystems and our economies of scale, in the Caribbean region we are particularly vulnerable to the human health and environmental implications associated with poor chemicals and hazardous waste management,” says Jewel Batchasingh, interim Director of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for the Caribbean (BCRC-Caribbean).
A regional project developed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) addresses some of these barriers and is helping to achieve sound chemicals management.
“This project is the first of its kind in this part of the world,” explains UNIDO project manager, Alfredo Cueva. “Its regional approach will enable collaboration and resource-sharing between the eight participating countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and the Republic of Suriname.”
Since its inception in December 2015, the project, which is valued at approximately USD 30 million and co-funded by a grant of over 8 million USD from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has been taking steps to create an enabling environment to reduce and eliminate the threats of POPs in the region. Planned to run until 30 November 2020, the project is implemented by UNIDO and executed by BCRC-Caribbean.