The Ghana government is yet to consider its regulations in the EPA amendment act on POPS several interventions had been made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to held a workshop to review the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), highly toxic substances released into the environment through human activity.
POPs are known to cause an array of adverse effects including diseases and birth defects among humans and animals in the world over.
The Stockholm Convention on POPs was adopted in May 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden where 92 states including Ghana, and the European Community signed the Convention. It was to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutant.
The Stockholm Convention began with 12 initial compounds affectionately called the “dirty dozen”. However, since May 2009, additional nine chemicals have been added to the Convention.
Article 7 of the Stockholm Convention requires that all Parties prepare their National Implementation Plans (NIPs), which is the formal planning document that defines a country’s commitments, current situation and actions, as well as its plans to undertake in the field of POPs management.
Parties are expected to review and update, as appropriately, their implementation plans on periodic basis as specified by a decision of the Conference of the Parties.
EPA said Ghana prepared its NIP in 2007 but the addition of chemicals to Annexes A, B or C of the Stockholm Convention, has necessitated the need for Parties to review and update their NIPs in accordance with decision of the Conference of Parties.
The United Nations Environment Programme is therefore assisting Ghana with a Global Environment Facility fund to undertake National Implementation Planning (NIP) review and update activities.
In his keynote address which was read on his behalf of Executive Director, of EPA Mr Daniel Amlalo, said over the past several decades, much chemicals have been released to the environment causing lots of diseases including cancer which is currently on the rise in Ghana.
He said through human activities, POPs are now widely distributed over large regions including those where POPs have never been used.
He said specific effects of POPs include allergies and hypersensitivity, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders, and disruption of the immune system. Some POPs are also considered to be endocrine disrupters, which, by altering the hormonal system, could damage the reproductive and immune systems of exposed individuals as well as their offspring they could also have developmental and carcinogenic effects.
Mr Amlalo said successes have been achieved since Ghana prepared its NIP and these included the formulation of national policy on POPs which have been approved by Cabinet as well as the development and implementation of a national programme for the elimination of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the country.
He said inventories have been conducted, while relevant stakeholders from Volta River Authority, Electricity Company of Ghana, GRIDCo, and some mining companies, among others have been trained and sensitised on identification, handling and risk assessment of the POPs.
Mr Amlalo said the workshop was thus, being held to introduce stakeholders to new issues of POPs and find ways to protect the public from extensive exposure to these toxins.
Pointing out in his presentation, Director at the Chemical Control and Monitoring Centre of the EPA Dr Sam Adu-Kumi, said POPs constitute a group of chemical substances that possess a particular combination of physical and chemical properties such that once released into the environment, remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time and become widely distributed throughout the environment.
These pollutants also accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms including humans and fish and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain.
He said pesticides like DDT, and industrial chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used as dielectric fluids in transformer and capacitors and by-products of industrial combustion including dioxins and furans are examples of the POPs whilst brominated flame retardants, polychlorinated alkanes (PCAs), and perfluorinated organic compounds constitute a new group of emerging POPs.
He said with regards to the new POPs, the sources of exposure were mainly from household application and industrial usage.
He announced that preliminary studies have also showed that there were presently no reliable official records on production, import, export and use of POPs pesticides in Ghana while the organochlorine pesticides were still in use illegally.
He said evidence also shows that workers in some industries have been exposed to PCBs as a result of bad practices such as the use of empty transformer oil drums as water reservoirs.
?PCBs oils referred to as dirty oil finds its way into small-scale industries where it is used to produce pomade and sold on the local markets?.
He said participants therefore have between January to December 2015 to come out with a new national implementation plan that would ensure much public education of POPs and the need to minimize the exposure to such toxin.