Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

08 May 2015



Join #StopthePOPs!

Celebrating 10 years of successful POPs project implementation in China and abroad, UNDP China with its government counterpart Foreign Economic Cooperation Office (FECO) Ministry of Environmental Protection is rolling out an international campaign against the 23 POPs. 

1.    Watch and share the POPs animation video with #StopthePOPs!

2.    Play and share POPs Hunter! Download the game through the App store and start hunting today to win POPs-themed exciting prizes!

3.    Educate yourself and read more about the nasty POPs below!

What are POPs?

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are hazardous chemical pollutants originating from pesticides, industrial chemicals, and byproducts of chemical processes.  They accumulate in body tissues of living organisms and are subject to long-range transport. POPs have adverse effects on humans and/or ecosystems. Under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on POPs, signed by more than 100 countries, an intital group of 12 POPs were identified after which many others were considered for a total of 23 POPs. Common examples of POPs include PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxin, and DDT. 

For example in China, DDT is added to marine anti-foul paint, to form a toxic layer over the painted area which can kill marine fouling organisms and thus achieve the desired effect. However, during usage these anti-fouls contaminate the water indiscriminately, damaging marine biodiversity, harming the marine food chain and threatening the marine ecological balance and human health. Annually, China consumes about 65,000 metric tons (MTs) of antifouling paint. China has 300,000 fishing vessels spread along its 18,000 kilometre coastline, which consume 10,000 MT of antifouling paint. Approximately half of this (i.e. 5,000 MT) is DDT based.

Why are POPs harmful? 

Because POPs can travel long distances via air currents, its effects go beyond its origin and source.  Furthermore, POPs can accumulate within organisms and food sources, including milk and cheese, and be passed from one organism to another; POPs can also cross the placenta and affect developing fetuses. Research has shown significant correlations between exposure to such toxic compounds and developmental dysfunctions in fetus and infants, learning and behavioral disorders, reproductive deficits, immune system dysfunctions and other diseases.  POPs inevitably threaten human health and ecosystems.

Through advocacy and government initiatives, in 2009 China banned the production, use, and trade of several POPs products, including DDT, mirex, and chlordane. National and global efforts to find products that replace POPs is ongoing with much more work to be done.

Work with Us 

The 23 POPs

Aldrin is a nasty pesticide used in soils to kill bugs! Aldrin is used to kill termites, grasshoppers, other small insects, therefore threatening birds, fish and potentially humans. Avoid touching daily supplies or animal products exposed to Aldrin. China has never produced large amounts of Aldrin.DDT, an organic-chlorine pesticide, is used for pest control in cotton, fruit trees and vegetables. Food-borne DDT remains the greatest form of exposure to humans so watch what you’re eating! In China the production, trade, use and import/export of DDT has been banned.Endrin is an insecticide used to control crop pests and rodents such as mice and voles. Endrin is highly toxic to fish and other marine life. It can enter the human body mainly through food. China has never produced large amounts of Endrin,Mirex is an organic-chlorine pesticide used to combat fire ants, termites and other pests. In China, it is primarily used to control termites. The production, trade, use and import/export of Mirex has been banned in China.Toxaphene is another insecticide used in cotton, cereal grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables. Terrible Toxaphene has also been used to control ticks and mites in livestock. Toxaphene is listed as a possible cancer-causing pollutant and has already been banned in China.PCB compounds are a by-product of production processes, but are also used in a lot of industries, such as heat exchange fluids in electric transformers and capacitors. PCBs are linked to reproductive failure and suppression of the immune system in various animals - ultimately affecting humans! Production and use of PCBs has already been banned in China. HexaBDE and HeptaBDE are mainly used as flame retardant additives. They build up in the food web and are highly toxic. China has never produced or used HexaBDE or HeptaBDE.Alpha-HCH was once used as a pesticide, and was a by-product of Lindane. It’s been identified as a possible human carcinogen. China has stopped producing or using Alpha-HCH.Beta-HCH is a brother to its Alpha counterpart once used as a pesticide, and was a by-product of Lindane. It’s been identified as a possible human carcinogen. China has stopped producing or using Beta-HCH.PeCB is used in PCB products as a fungicide, a flame retardant and a chemical intermediate. It is also a non- intentional emissions by-product. What’s worse, it’s extremely toxic to marine life. PeCB was never produced or used as a pesticide in China. PFOS is widely used in producing chrome plating fog inhibitor and light water-type firefighting foam. Except in specific circumstances the production, trade, use and import/export of PFOS has been banned in China. Endosulfan is an insecticide widely used in pest control for cotton, fruit trees, vegetables, tobacco, tea and other crops, as well as in wood preservatives. It is toxic to humans, as well as marine and terrestrial organisms. Except in some specific circumstances the production, trade, use and import/export of Endosulfan is banned in China.Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) is a brominated flame retardant primarily used in thermal insulation. It adversely affects metabolism and reproduction in animals.TetraBDE and PentaBDE are mainly used as flame retardant additives, and are toxic to wildlife. China has stopped producing TetraBDE and PentaBDE. Lindane was used as a broad-spectrum insecticide for seed, soil, tree and wood treatments, and against ectoparasites in both veterinary and human applications. Lindane bio-accumulates easily in the food web, bio-concentrates rapidly and can negatively affect human health. Manufacturing Lindane is banned, and it can no longer be registered as a pesticide in China.Hexabromobiphenyl is a kind of industrial flame retardant, identified as a possible human carcinogen. It was never used or produced in China.PCDF is a non-intentional emission by-product created by waste incineration, papermaking, metallurgy, and production processes for the regeneration of non-ferrous metals. PCDF will accumulate in food, especially animal products, and harm human health. HCB is an insecticide, also used as an intermediate in organic synthesis or formed as a by-product of certain industrial chemicals. In China, the production, circulation, use and import/export of HCB have been banned.Chlordecone is a synthetic organic-chlorine pesticide used to produce Mirex. Chlordecone is very toxic to marine life and has been identified as a possible human carcinogen. China has never produced or used Chlordecone.Dieldrin is a vicious compound mainly used to control termites and pests in soil. Dieldrin is highly toxic to fish and other marine life. China has never produced large amounts of Dieldrin. PCDD is classified as a non-intentional emission by-product, and mainly comes from waste incineration, papermaking, metallurgy, and production processes for the regeneration of non-ferrous metals. PCDD chemicals are classed as possible human carcinogens.Chlordane is used as an insecticide on crops and for termite control. Chlordane lingers in the soil for a long time and affects fish and birds. It also harms the human immune system and is classed as a possible human carcinogen. In China, the production, circulation, use and import/export of Chlordane have been banned. Heptachlor is primarily used to kill soil insects and termites as well as crop pests and nasty malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Heptachlor is a possible human carcinogen. China has banned the production of Heptachlor.
StopthePOPs: Towards a POPs-free Future for All

Download POPs Hunter Game
Available in the App store
Helen Clark's Message on POPs

#StopthePOPs Supporters
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Jane Goodall: UN Messenger of Peace

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Xu Haoliang: UN Assistant Secretary-General

POPs Elimination in China