EPA administrator Christine Whitman, along with delegates from 90 other countries, signed a global treaty on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that bans the production and use of these chemicals.

Due to their unique characteristics, POPs, which include substances such as PCBs, dioxins and DDT, are chemicals of local and global concern. That’s because POPs are toxic, persistent in the environment and accumulate as they move up the food chain. They have been shown to contribute to birth defects, cancer and other problems for both humans and animals.

The U.S. had already banned or severely restricted the production, use and sale of these chemicals. However, most other countries have taken little or no action.

Although signing the treaty is the first step, the treaty does not go into affect until 50 nations have ratified it. Whitman promised the delegates attending the meeting in Sweden that the “United States would move fast to get Congress’ approval.”

A total of 127 countries were represented at the meeting. Those that did not sign the treaty, have up to a year to sign on.

EPA, Associated Press