Baltic Sea Region Cuts Toxic Discharges in Half

HELSINKI, Finland, August 24, 2001 (ENS) - The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission says it has reached its goal of reducing by half the discharges, emissions, and losses of hazardous substances in the Baltic Sea area.

Known as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), the commission presented a report today on the levels of toxic discharges and emissions during a meeting of the Heads of Delegations in Warsaw, Poland. The report investigated 72 selected hazardous substances.

These have been largely reduced since the late 1980s according to the report. "We appreciate the achievements by our contracting parties," said HELCOM chairman Peter Ehlers.

"But having reached the 50 percent reduction goal is only the first step in the right direction. We must reduce discharges, emissions, and losses of hazardous substances even further," he said.


The Baltic Sea
All the 72 substances in question harm the environment. They are toxic, persistent or accumulate in living organisms. Among them are pesticides, biocides, and heavy metals as well as organic compounds, which include dioxins and antifouling agents such as tri-butyl tin.

The goal to reduce 47 of such hazardous substances by at least 50 percent was declared in 1988 by the Ministers responsible for the Environment of all countries bordering on the Baltic Sea.

Within the past 13 years, the emissions of certain hazardous substances have been mastered by legal means as well as new production processes and retention systems. The use of leaded gasoline, for instance, has significantly decreased or even been phased out by now in all countries bordering on the Baltic Sea.

In other cases, deep socio-economic changes and stagnant industrial productions brought about the reduction of emissions, the commission says.

Still, high concentrations of hazardous substances in the Baltic marine environment are of concern, as stated in the recent "Fourth Periodic Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Region."

Having met the 50 percent reduction goal, the Helsinki Commission now aims to phase out the discharges, emissions and losses of selected hazardous substances by 2020.

Members of the Helskini Commission are: Denmark, Estonia, European Commission, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Sweden.