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NEWS RELEASE September 5, 2000


Greenpeace has welcomed the release of a South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) report on the status of toxic chemicals in the region, and has called for an urgent clean up of the contaminated sites documented in the report.

The SPREP report reveals that there are more than 50 contaminated areas in 13 Pacific Island Countries, raising serious concerns for the health and safety of the environment and people living close to these sites.

The international community under the directive of the United Nations Environmental Programme has recognized the dangers of these chemicals, which are known as Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs. (1) Twelve chemicals have been targeted for immediate elimination or phasing out. They include polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs and DDT, both of which have been identified in the SPREP report.

"It is extremely important that once POPs are identified they are contained properly and disposed of in a safe way," said Greenpeace toxics campaigner, Maureen Penjueli. "Otherwise the cost of contamination is borne by communities and the environment."

However Greenpeace is concerned about SPREP’s recommendation to dispose of these chemicals in high temperature incinerators. Incineration does not effectively destroy these chemicals, and can in fact create even more dangerous poisons such as dioxins. Greenpeace calls on Pacific island governments to demand alternative non-incineration options that can treat these hazardous chemicals.

"It is inappropriate for this Australian funded report to suggest disposal by incineration when this option is banned in Australia. Pacific islanders must be afforded the same standards as Australians; there can be no double standard," said Greenpeace International toxics campaigner Dr. Darryl Luscombe.

"Australia is a leader in the use of non-incineration technologies for the destruction of POPs. In fact revolutionary technology is being used to clean up POPs contaminated soil at the Sydney Olympics site right now," Dr. Luscombe said. "Australia and other developed nations should provide incentives for development of safe toxic waste disposal technology in the region."

For more information, contact Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner Dr. Darryl Luscombe on ++61 2 9261 4666 or Media Officer Samantha Magick on +61 2 9263 0374.

(1) Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) have four properties which make them insidious: toxicity, persistence, fat loving, and transportability by wind and sea currents. These characteristics means that today there are POPs in all living tissues or organisms through out the world. Scientists have found that POPs have devastating effects on the immune, reproductive and hormone systems of animals and humans.

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