by Alexander Higgins, Associated Press
GENEVA -- Dozens of experts armed with a new global
treaty began Thursday to plan a decades-long assault on PCBs,
one of the most widespread and difficult to eradicate chemical
Billions of dollars will be spent globally "to
make the world PCB-free by the year 2028" under the treaty
that went into force last month, said James B. Willis, director
of the chemicals unit at the U.N. Environment Program.
PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls - which have been
extensively used in the United States and elsewhere for transformers
and other electrical equipment, have been scattered through the
environment through leakage, accidents and careless disposal,
the agency said.
Production of the chemicals is banned, but they
are still in use in a wide array of electrical equipment, it said.
Replacing the equipment and removing the pollution from the environment
will take years.
The most common way of disposing of them is through
high-temperature incinerators, which are expensive to run, officials
said. Other methods also are being developed.PCBs are among "the
most widespread of all environmental pollutants, found worldwide
in air, water, soil, food and the fatty tissues of humans and
animals," the agency said.
They can cause health problems, including weakened
immunity, and possibly cancer, it added.
Some 200 representatives of government, agencies
and companies are taking part in the two-day meeting to discuss
needs and plan for disposal.
PCBs are one of several toxic chemicals covered
by the treaty known as the Stockholm Convention that went into
force May 17. The list of pollutants also includes DDT, dioxin
Some 65 countries have already ratified the accord,
and about 100 more have signed it. The United States is among
the signers, but the Senate has yet to ratify the treaty even
though President Bush has given it his strong backing.