Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

“Dirty dozen” are the first set of Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) banned by the Stockholm convention in 2004. Ever since 14 other chemicals have been added to the list. The committee is now reviewing 5 other chemicals to be added, which increase the list up to a total of 31 POPs.


  1. Aldrin
  2. Chlordane
  3. DDT
  4. Dieldrin
  5. Endrin
  6. Heptachlor
  7. Hexachlorobenzene (HCB)
  8. Mirex
  9. Toxaphene
  10. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
  11. Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD)
  12. Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDF)
  13. Chlordecone
  14. Hexabromobiphenyl
  15. Pentachlorobenzene
  16. Lindane
  17. Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane (α-HCH)
  18. Beta hexachlorocyclohexane (β-HCH)
  19. Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether (commercial PentaBDE)
  20. Hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether (commercial OctaBDE)
  21. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), its salts, and PFOSF
  22. Endosulfan
  23. Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)
  24. Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)
  25. Pentachlorophenol (PCP)
  26. Polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs)

Chemicals under review to be included in the list;

  1. Decabromodiphenyl ether  (DecaBDE)
  2. Short-chain chlorinated paraffins
  3. Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)
  4. Dicofol
  5. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

Why POPs are so significant?

Well, these chemicals are “persistent” in the environment. In other words, once released, it will never leave or decay from the environment. Also, they are soluble in organic fluids like oils, fats, and liquid fuels. This character helps them to bio accumulate and become long range travelers. A POP released from Sri Lanka can end up in Antarctic! They tend to bioaccumulate and bio magnify. Which means it travels through food chains and concentrate towards the end. As the figure shows, it enters the food chain through grass and ends up in the infant who feeds on mother’s milk. Just look at the concentration of the chemical.. its low in grass, little high in cow and highest in the infant.

Persistent Organic Pollutants and Early Menopause in U.S. Women

There are hundreds of researches that show what these chemicals can do to human, to animals, plants, fungus, algae , bacteria and other organisms in the environment. Ingestion (consumption through mouth), inhalation or  absorption through skin may cause developmental defects, cancers, endocrine disruption within reproductive system, central nervous system or immune system.


Yet, there are countries still thinking whether to ban or not these chemicals in their land. Some countries have accepted the ban (ratified the Stockholm convention), yet import PCB contaminated transformers, burn POPs contaminated articles in open and use POPs contained or contaminated pesticides, fungicides, etc… It’s pathetic. But;

There are things each of us can do to reduce the emission and contamination of POPs.


  1. Stop open burning of household waste.

There are number of items that can have POP chemicals in them. For example, plastics, PVC, electrical cables, textile, leather, carpets, rubber products, paper packages,.. etc. Thus it is not safe to burn anything in open air. Best thing would be to separate your household waste and submit to recycling centers. Specially electronic items and other non degradable waste.

  1. Reduce application of pesticides/ fungicides/ weedicides / insecticides and other pest controls available over the counter. There are natural substances you can use instead or repellents that can save your cultivation/ business.
  2. Be cautious of what you eat and drink. Even if someone has applied pesticides in your vegetables, you can avoid eating whole amount of those chemicals. Just;
    • Wash your vegetables thoroughly with flowing water
    • Avoid eating the peels of vegetables and fruits whenever possible
    • Allow veggies and fruits to be in open air for sometime before you store them in the fridge. This can help to get rid of volatile residues in them
    • Try gardening.. at least leafy vegetables can be supplied from your own garden.

4. Even if your meat contains POPs, you can avoid total ingestion by;

  • Avoiding fatty parts like skins of meat and fish
  • Avoid eating the gut, gills and heads of fish. Because the adipose tissues in head and other parts involved in food consumption, stores most of the fat soluble pollutants as well as heavy metals.

like to read more? here are some links;

  1. The POPs- Stockholm convention
  2. Health effects of POPs
  3. “POPs” by WHO
  4. Sources of POPs
  5. POPs- Air pollution Information System, UK
  6. Sources and Pathways of Persistent Organic Pollutants– IW:LEARN
  7. Sources of by-product POPs and their Elimination by Darryl Luscombe and Pat Costner, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaign, May 2001
  8. Persistent Organic Pollutant
  9. Persistent Organic Pollutants list
  10. Chemistry of Persistent Organic Pollutants
  11. POPs affects on women – Persistent Organic Pollutants and Early Menopause in U.S. Women, Natalia M. Grindler,Jenifer E. Allsworth,George A. Macones,Kurunthachalam Kannan,Kimberly A. Roehl,Amber R. Cooper Published: January 28, 2015

There’s much much more.. go surf as much as your brain requires. but just remember to do your part towards a toxics free future…



By admin

I am Chalani H.T. Rubesinghe (Bsc., MSc Env. Sc.), graduated from the Open University of Sri Lanka in 2009 in the stream of Natural sciences with a First class. I completed my Masters in Environmental science at the Postgraduate Institute of Science at Peradeniya, Sri Lanka with a GPA of 3.58. As a child I had a keen interest on oceans and ships. I used to collect details and pictures of ships and spent hours in the library to collect information on oceans. Back then I wanted to become an Oceanographer. I have a huge collection of ocean specimens that in future someday when I'm rich enough, I expect to turn into a museum. When I was doing my masters, Oceanography was unavailable. Instead I had to do Environmental science which eventually became my carrier and also a part of my life. My carrier started as an Environmental Officer from Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ), Sri Lanka. This was the mother who gave me birth, nurtured and raised me up as an Environmental scientist. For this, I gratefully acknowledge Mr. Hematha WIthanage, Executive director, Mr. Dilena Pathragoda, Director- Projects and the whole CEJ team. During my carrier I was engaged in; Studies on enhancing public awareness on chemical management under the grants of UNDP/ GEF/ SGP, Climate change on agriculture and their remedial actions implemented in Sri Lanka, Global study on fish and community mercury contamination carried in association with IPEN and ARNIKA organization, Survey on public perceptions on Wide spreading CKDue in Sri Lanka with Korea Green Association, Contamination of mercury and lead in cosmetics and Asian lead paint elimination project in association with IPEN and EU. In addition I worked as the regional facilitator for Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific for two months. I have also facilitated the Non Carbon Benefits study carried out by CEJ and Sri Lanka Climate and Forest Action Network (SLCFAN). I also got the opportunity to participate in survey and awareness raising sessions of Forest Management Plan Survey Conducted at Nilgala and Bogahapallassa conduct by CEJ incorporation with SHALIN, Finland. Which gave me the opportunity to understand the conflict between forest conservation and marginal residents. All these work included generating reading materials, partial contribution in budgeting, writing updates for granters, organizing meetings/ symposiums for national and international audiences, discussions and field work such as public awareness, surveys and sampling. I was also given the opportunity of participating in international events such as; GAELP (Global Association For Eliminating Lead Paint) held in Thailand, June 2012, as the NGO representative from Sri Lanka to share the experiences on eliminating lead paint in Sri Lanka, IPEN International Toxic Metals Skillshare in Minamata, Japan (3rd-4th of October, 2013) and Minamata International Symposium (5 & 6 October, 2013) to share the experience on CEJ research on mercury and to share the experiences of Minamata victims, and South East Asia Regional Conference on Lead Poisoning (24th and 25th October 2013) held in New Delhi, organized by the Toxics Link, in partnership with Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi and the Lata Medical Research Foundation. Later in 2014, I had to shift to Italy in order to fulfill my duty as a wife. Yet, nothing learned ever goes in vain. Since, it is impossible to get a carrier as an environmental scientist here in Italy, I use my spare time to generate something useful and helpful through my website. My younger brother Channaka Oshan Rubesinghe handles all the technical details of this site for me. I must mention that, my husband, ammi, dada, elder brother, younger brother and my both sister-in-laws have always been the encouragement, guidance and strength behind my work.

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