"These pollutants are linked to developmental defects, cancer, and other grave problems in humans and animals. The risks are great, and the need for action is clear," Bush said at a White House ceremony attended by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman. "We must work to eliminate, or at least to severely restrict the release of these toxins without delay."
Agreed on by 122 countries in December 2000, the treaty calls for a ban on toxins found in pesticides and industrial chemicals known as the "dirty dozen," including DDT and PCB. And it mandates reductions in dioxins and furans, toxic byproducts of burning waste and industrial production.
Whitman said the toxins, known as persistent organic pollutants, known by the initials POPs, have been "linked to numerous adverse effects in humans and animals."
"Those include cancer, central nervous system damage, reproductive disorders and immune system disruptions," Whitman said.
"These chemicals not only persist in the environment for years and years and even decades, they also travel far beyond their initial point of release and they gain in their toxicity as they accumulate."
The United States either prohibited or severally restricted the targeted chemicals years ago. The treaty, if approved by the Senate and enacted, would have little effect on the United States.
"Of the chemical products covered in the treaty, none are manufactured in the U.S.," American Chemistry Council President Fred Webber said in a statement. "Both the product and byproduct POPs are rigorously controlled under U.S. environmental laws and regulations."
Tim Gilroy, a spokesman for the chemical industry group, said "there won't be an economic affect" on U.S. businesses because of the treaty.
Rick Hind, a Greenpeace activist who has worked on the issue for a decade, called Bush's support of the treaty "very hollow and insincere" because he has not pressed for Senate ratification, which could take years.
Left-wing environmental special-interest groups have complained in recent weeks about Bush's decision not to curb carbon dioxide emissions, to withdraw support from a Senate-opposed treaty intended to slow "global warming" and delay an expensive last-minute Clinton administration regulation to slash arsenic levels in drinking water from longtime standards - even though a new study says the Clinton arsenic change would increase deaths.
These same groups have ignored or griped anyway about Bush's recent decisions to uphold Clinton's costly last-minute "wetlands" and lead regulations.
"These Earth Day press releases are a far cry from addressing this," Hind grumbled.
Two other countries, Canada and Sweden, have already said they would sign and ratify the anti-toxin treaty.
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