Compounds on the Stockholm Convention list - Persistent organic pollutant - Water Polution
In May 1995, the United Nations Environment Programme Governing Council investigated POPs. Initially the Convention recognized only twelve POPs for their adverse effects on human health and the environment, placing a global ban on these particularly harmful and toxic compounds and requiring its parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs in the environment.
Aldrin, an insecticide used in soils to kill termites, grasshoppers, Western corn rootworm, and others, is also known to kill birds, fish, and humans. Humans are primarily exposed to aldrin through dairy products and animal meats.
Chlordane, an insecticide used to control termites and on a range of agricultural crops, is known to be lethal in various species of birds, including mallard ducks, bobwhite quail, and pink shrimp; it is a chemical that remains in the soil with a reported half-life of one year.
Chlordane has been postulated to affect the human immune system and is classified as a possible human carcinogen. Chlordane air pollution is believed the primary route of humane exposure.
Dieldrin, a pesticide used to control termites, textile pests, insect-borne diseases and insects living in agricultural soils. In soil and insects, aldrin can be oxidized, resulting in rapid conversion to dieldrin. Dieldrin's half-life is approximately five years. Dieldrin is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic animals, particularly frogs, whose embryos can develop spinal deformities after exposure to low levels. Dieldrin has been linked to Parkinson's disease, breast cancer, and classified as immunotoxic, neurotoxic, with endocrine disrupting capacity. Dieldrin residues have been found in air, water, soil, fish, birds, and mammals. Human exposure to dieldrin primarily derives from food.
Endrin, an insecticide sprayed on the leaves of crops, and used to control rodents. Animals can metabolize endrin, so fatty tissue accumulation is not an issue, however the chemical has a long half-life in soil for up to 12 years. Endrin is highly toxic to aquatic animals and humans as a neurotoxin. Human exposure results primarily through food.
Heptachlor, a pesticide primarily used to kill soil insects and termites, along with cotton insects, grasshoppers, other crop pests, and malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Heptachlor, even at very low doses has been associated with the decline of several wild bird populations – Canada geese and American kestrels. In laboratory tests have shown high-dose heptachlor as lethal, with adverse behavioral changes and reduced reproductive success at low-doses, and is classified as a possible human carcinogen. Human exposure primarily results from food.
Hexachlorobenzene (HCB), was first introduced in 1945–59 to treat seeds because it can kill fungi on food crops. HCB-treated seed grain consumption is associated with photosensitive skin lesions, colic, debilitation, and a metabolic disorder called porphyria turcica, which can be lethal. Mothers who pass HCB to their infants through the placenta and breast milk had limited reproductive success including infant death. Human exposure is primarily from food.
Mirex, an insecticide used against ants and termites or as a flame retardant in plastics, rubber, and electrical goods. Mirex is one of the most stable and persistent pesticides, with a half-life of up to 10 years. Mirex is toxic to several plant, fish and crustacean species, with suggested carcinogenic capacity in humans. Humans are exposed primarily through animal meat, fish, and wild game.
Toxaphene, an insecticide used on cotton, cereal, grain, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, as well as for tick and mite control in livestock. Widespread toxaphene use in the US and chemical persistence, with a half-life of up to 12 years in soil, results in residual toxaphene in the environment. Toxaphene is highly toxic to fish, inducing dramatic weight loss and reduced egg viability. Human exposure primarily results from food. While human toxicity to direct toxaphene exposure is low, the compound is classified as a possible human carcinogen.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used as heat exchange fluids, in electrical transformers, and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics. Persistence varies with degree of halogenation, an estimated half-life of 10 years.
PCBs are toxic to fish at high doses, and associated with spawning failure at low doses. Human exposure occurs through food, and is associated with reproductive failure and immune suppression. Immediate effects of PCB exposure include pigmentation of nails and mucous membranes and swelling of the eyelids, along with fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
Effects are transgenerational, as the chemical can persist in a mother's body for up to 7 years, resulting in developmental delays and behavioral problems in her children. Food contamination has led to large scale PCB exposure.
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is probably the most infamous POP. It was widely used as insecticide during WWII to protect against malaria and typhus. After the war, DDT was used as an agricultural insecticide.
In 1962, the American biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, describing the impact of DDT spraying on the US environment and human health. DDT's persistence in the soil for up to 10–15 years after application has resulted in widespread and persistent DDT residues throughout the world including the arctic, even though it has been banned or severely restricted in most of the world.
DDT is toxic to many organisms including birds where it is detrimental to reproduction due to eggshell thinning. DDT can be detected in foods from all over the world and food-borne DDT remains the greatest source of human exposure.
Short-term acute effects of DDT on humans are limited, however long-term exposure has been associated with chronic health effects including increased risk of cancer and diabetes, reduced reproductive success, and neurological disease.
Dioxins are unintentional by-products of high-temperature processes, such as incomplete combustion and pesticide production. Dioxins are typically emitted from the burning of hospital waste, municipal waste, and hazardous waste, along with automobile emissions, peat, coal, and wood.
Dioxins have been associated with several adverse effects in humans, including immune and enzyme disorders, chloracne, and are classified as a possible human carcinogen. In laboratory studies of dioxin effects an increase in birth defects and stillbirths, and lethal exposure have been associated with the substances.
Food, particularly from animals, is the principal source of human exposure to dioxins. Dioxins were present in Agent Orange, which was used by the United States in chemical warfare against Vietnam and caused devastating multi-generational effects in both Vietnamese and American civilians.
Polychlorinated dibenzofurans are by-products of high-temperature processes, such as incomplete combustion after waste incineration or in automobiles, pesticide production, and polychlorinated biphenyl production.
Structurally similar to dioxins, the two compounds share toxic effects. Furans persist in the environment and are classified as possible human carcinogens. Human exposure to furans primarily results from food, particularly animal products.