Persistent Organic Pesticides

Authored by: Gamini Manuweera

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:


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Persistent organic pesticides are part of a larger group of chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants or POPs. In addition to pesticides, POPs include industrial chemicals and unintentionally produced chemical substances or by-products of anthropogenic origin. POPs do not easily undergo common environmental degradation processes. Therefore, once released, these substances remain unchanged in the environment for a very long period of time. POPs are also highly toxic to living organisms. The toxic effects are mainly linked to long-term low-level exposure scenarios mostly resulting in chronic health problems. High persistence in the environment increases the availability of POPs for long-term exposure to human populations and ecosystems. Furthermore, POPs can undergo long-range transport in the environment. Combination of these effects drew the attention on this group of substances at the international level after it became apparent that they travel long distances across borders. Measures by individual countries were not sufficient to ensure satisfactory protection of human health and the environment from adverse effects of POPs. As a result, a global treaty, now known as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, was created to address the issues related to POPs. The Stockholm Convention requires parties to take measures to reduce or eliminate releases from intentional production and use of POPs by taking necessary legal and administrative measures as recommended by the Convention. The latest concerns of POPs include interference of these substances with hormonal activities, acting as “endocrine disruptors,” and possible interlinkages between climate change and POPs. Factors such as indiscriminate use of pesticides and lack of capacity for sound management of pests and disease vectors may lead to continued need for POP pesticides. The efforts on elimination of POP pesticides should seek alternative approaches that are sustainable. It will be important to ensure that POP pesticides are not simply replaced by other pesticides but that the principles of integrated pest and vector management are adopted with due consideration on related concerns such as resistance management.

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