POPS, A GLOBAL CONCERN TO BE ADDRESSED
Have you ever heard about POPs?
If you have no clue what it means, we invite you to read this article to understand not only its meaning, to better understand its impact on our planet and how we can contribute to change by reducing POP emissions.
What Is “POP”?
“POP” is an abbreviation that stands for Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are toxic organic chemicals that represent a substantial and global threat to human health and the world’s ecosystems.
Although the O in POP stands for “organic,” make no mistake, this is not the organic we know as “natural” or “living matter.” Rather, in a chemical context, it is more likely to be synthetic, thus implying the presence of carbon in the pollutant.
In an attempt to protect human health and the environment from POPs, the United Nations Environment Programme has identified 12 POPs as being toxic to humans and the environment in 2021. These 12 POPS, also referred to as the Dirty Dozen, have been ratified through the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollution. The Convention mandates parties to control and/or reduce POPs.
How Do POPs Impact Our Environment?
POPs impact the food chain through biomagnification, the process through which they accumulate in the body fat of living organisms and become more concentrated as they move from one creature to another.
Industrial processes involving combustion (waste incineration, metal production, heat production, etc.) are potential emitters of unintentional persistent organic pollutants, usually from incomplete combustion.
Diffuse sources, although difficult to assess, are also considered significant. These include backyard burning, residential combustion, landfill fires, forest fires, and building fires.
Persistent organic pollutants, which exhibit toxic effects on human health and wildlife, are associated with a wide range of adverse effects such as immune system degradation, reproductive impairment, and the development of carcinogenic properties.
Prolonged exposure to POPs can cause chronic disruption, even at low concentrations. And because of their bio-accumulative properties and resistance to biological degradation processes, impacts are also observed far from the sources of emission.
What Can WE Do To Reduce Our POP Emissions?
We can reduce POP through the food chain by reducing soil contamination by pesticides and other POPs introduced primarily through atmospheric deposition. By doing so, we protect biodiversity by reducing biomagnification as these crops are consumed by livestock, humans, or wildlife. As an alternative, consider buying organic food as much as possible.
We can implement a structured approach to reduce POPs emissions in our company to identify and quantify the various sources of POPs emissions. Then, moving onwards, we can optimize the operating conditions of industrial processes and/or put in place a technique for treating gaseous effluents.
We can reduce our use of pesticides by considering non-chemical methods as an alternative.
We can optimize combustion conditions. As dioxin/furan emissions are mainly due to incomplete combustion, it is necessary to maintain optimized combustion (temperature, residence time, turbulences, oxygen rate).
We can control of the materials entering the process. The generation of dioxins can be done from carbon, chlorine, and oxygen in any chemical form in the presence of metallic catalysts. Reducing the amount of chlorinated organic materials such as oils, lubricants, polymers, additives) will therefore help reduce dioxin/furan emissions. This can be observed mostly in the metal waste recycling sector.
It is essential to understand what POPs are, how they are produced, and how they most significantly affect us and our planet. Now that we have raised awareness about this alarming global issue, we can now agree that we can all act responsibly when it comes to POPs emissions. Every step counts! Let’s create impact!