International Actions to Protect Health and Environment: A Report from the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

May 21, 2015
10:00 am US Eastern Time

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The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) is a global treaty to eliminate the world’s most dangerous chemicals. Parties to the convention meet every two years to decide which additional chemicals should be added to the original “dirty dozen” banned chemicals. This May, world leaders will decide if pentachlorophenol (PCP), a pesticide still used as a wood preservative for utility poles (primarily in the U.S. and Canada) should be banned. PCP is a persistent and ubiquitous contaminant found in the breast milk, blood, amniotic fluid, adipose tissue, and seminal fluid of people throughout the world, including Indigenous peoples of the Arctic. Exposure to PCP is associated with damage to the developing brain and nervous system, impairment of memory and learning, disruption to thyroid function, immune suppression, infertility, and increased risk of certain cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. On this call we heard firsthand from representatives of an Indigenous delegation and of Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) who participated in the Seventh Conference of Parties to the Convention (COP7) meeting in Geneva in early May. Find out what governments around the world decided regarding a global ban of PCP and two additional highly toxic substances.

Featured Speakers

Pamela K. Miller, Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Pamela founded ACAT in 1997. Since 2000, ACAT has been awarded multiple federal grants for which Pam has been serving as team leader and, from 2005 through 2016, as Principal Investigator of a research team that includes faculty from four universities in Alaska and New York. These research projects rely on collaborative efforts with tribes in Alaska to address environmental health and justice issues. Pam is a leader in Coming Clean, a national network of groups concerned about chemicals policy reform, and in the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, an international partnership committed to strengthening the scientific and public dialogue on environmental factors linked to chronic disease and disability. She is one of the world’s foremost experts concerning the toxic pesticide lindane, serving two governmental organizations (United Nations and the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation) to address international concerns about lindane. She was instrumental in prompting the 2006 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw agricultural products containing lindane from the US, the 2010 decision by the same agency to phase out uses of endosulfan, and the 2011 decision by the United Nations Environment Programme to ban endosulfan worldwide under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. In 2012, she was elected as the only American on the Steering Committee for the International POPs Elimination Network. Pam is known for her work to prompt state, national, and international chemicals policy reform to protect environmental and human health in the Arctic. She was selected as a fellow for the Reach the Decision Makers program from the University of California San Francisco, Reproductive Health and Environment Program (2011); was invited to participate in an unprecedented White House Forum on Environmental Justice (2010); and selected to serve on an environmental justice advisory group for the Centers for Disease Control (2009-2010). In 2012, she received the Meritorious Service Award from the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska for her service to the community. In 2013, Pam was invited to serve on the board of directors for the Groundswell Fund. She holds a master’s degree in environmental science from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (1981).

Vi Waghiyi, Environmental Health and Justice Program Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Vi is a bilingual Yupik who was born in Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island. Although her family moved to Nome, she grew up in both communities, traveling between Nome and the Island throughout her childhood. Vi was hired in 2002 to work in Anchorage to assist on the St. Lawrence Island environmental health and justice project. She became the Project Coordinator in 2004, which included supervising ACAT’s research staff on St. Lawrence Island. When her work expanded in 2005, Vi’s title was changed to Environmental Justice Community Coordinator. In 2009, she stepped into the position of Program Director to share responsibilities with the executive director for all of ACAT’s efforts. In 2010, she was awarded the Environmental Achievement Award in Recognition of Valuable Contributions to Environmental Excellence in Alaska by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. In 2012 leaders of Savoonga presented Vi with a certificate of appreciation “for the dedication and devoted service as an Ambassador of St. Lawrence Island for protecting our health and human rights.” She serves as a National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council member to the National Institute of Health. Vi is sought out repeatedly to speak at national and international meetings about ACAT’s work.

Rochelle Diver, Environmental Health Program Coordinator, International Indian Treaty Council