Concern in El Salvador over potential burning of obsolete pesticides

March 10th, 2010

The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) and Pesticide Action Network Latin America (RAPAL) sent a letter to the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador, Eng. Herman Rosa Chávez, expressing deep concern over the possibility of burning waste with the pesticide toxaphene in cement kilns operated by the local company CESSA, a local subsidiary of Holcim.

Barrels containing the obsolete pesticide toxaphene have been left abandoned more than a decade ago in the municipality of San Miguel. The national government has announced that the pesticides will be treated and that they will burn them in cement kilns. Local organizations CESTA and UNES have been calling for a proper treatment of the pesticides without incineration.

The international networks, working for a toxics free future, warned that toxaphene - a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) included in the Stockholm Convention on POPs, which establishes measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs to the environment - cannot be safely destroyed in cement kilns and made a call for El Salvador to meet its obligations as a Party to the Stockholm Convention on POPs. The Convention classifies cement kilns firing hazardous waste as a source with potential for comparatively high formation and release of POPs such as dioxins and furans.

In the letter, the networks noted that the scientific literature shows special concern over the possibility that these chemical compounds will be present in the clinker and other materials that are mixed to produce cement. Cement kilns burning waste also release other pollutants, including Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, NOx, heavy metals such as mercury, lead, zinc, nickel and vanadium. These substances are harmful to health and the environment.

The environmental justice networks recommended the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to create a multi-sector committee with the participation of community groups, academia, industry and public officials, to assess treatment options for the hazardous waste, which do not have the potential to release POPs. They also suggested that this committee could work on the definition and implementation of the Best Available Techniques and Best Environmental Practices in the framework of the Stockholm Convention. Finally, the networks stated that the company or the association that represents the pesticide industry should take full responsibility for all the costs involved in the management and treatment of these obsolete pesticides, something that is consistent with the Polluter Pays principle adopted in Rio.

See the letter (in Spanish) here.

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