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The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Washington
"The President has been dubbed by some as the 'Toxic Texan'"
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National Environmental Trust's Philip Clapp
"America will only co-operate with the world on environmental issues when there is no cost to American companies"
 real 56k

The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"President Bush made an important occasion out of this announcement"
 real 28k

Thursday, 19 April, 2001, 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK
Bush to sign pollutants treaty
Left to right: EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell
POPs statement in Rose Garden in full spring bloom
US President George W Bush says his administration is ready to sign an international treaty aimed at curbing toxic chemicals called persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Mr Bush - who has been dogged by criticism for his environmental policies in his first months in office - said the risk posed by organic pollutants was great and action needed to be taken.

"We must work to eliminate or at least to severely restrict the release of these toxins without delay," Mr Bush said.

Greenpeace protest outside the White House
It may take more than the POP treaty to change perceptions
The chemicals are used in industry or as pesticides, but they are known to harm the environment and cause afflictions in humans such as cancer and reproductive failure.

Under the international treaty, all signatory countries would be required to stop the production and use of POPs, although an exemption was granted for the use of DDT in countries which need to control malaria.

Some pollutants are produced as unintentional by-products of most forms of combustion.

Mr Bush made his announcement in the White House rose garden flanked by his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Whitman.

US initiative

The announcement appears to be an attempt by Mr Bush to shore up his environmentalist credentials after his rejection the Kyoto agreement on global warming.

President Bush and Environment administrator Christie Whitman
President Bush appeared with his environment supremo, Christie Whitman
The US played a lead role in negotiating the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and correspondents said it was no surprise that Mr Bush intends the US to sign it at a conference in Stockholm on 22-23 May.

Most of the pollutants covered under the treaty have not been produced in the US for many years.

Other steps which have contributed to an impression that Mr Bush was more interested in industry that the environment include avoiding new curbs on arsenic levels in drinking water in the US and reneging on a campaign pledge to impose carbon dioxide emissions restrictions on power plants.

Earlier this week he backed the former administration's position on requiring businesses to disclose lead emissions.

The US is the third country to say it intends to sign the convention, after Canada and Sweden. It must also be ratified by the Senate.

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