Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)


  • What are POPs?
  • Characteristics of POPs
  • Effects of POPs on Humans and the Environment 
  • What is the world doing about POP? - The Stockholm Convention
  • POPs listed under the Stockholm Convention
  • National Implementation Plan (NIP)
  • What is Trinidad and Tobago doing? - The Fight Against POPs
  • Status of POPs in Trinidad and Tobago
  • How can you help in the fight against POPs?

What are POPs?

Every day we are exposed to chemicals from daily activities, and products ranging from:

While the use of chemicals contributes to economic development and improvements in human welfare, some possess hazardous properties which can have serious negative impacts on human health and the environment. 

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are one particular group of hazardous chemicals which can have such adverse effects. They are carbon-based, organic chemicals that are man-made, with characteristics that make them harmful to human health and the environment. Human and wildlife exposure to POPs can occur through direct contact with the chemicals, consumption of contaminated foods, or environmental exposure (i.e. via air, water and soil).

POPs are produced as

or they are unintentionally released  (called uPOPs) as by-products from:



Characteristics of POPs

POPs are a global problem because of its peculiar characteristics. These characteristics include:
  • Toxic - POPs are hazardous to both human health and the environment, and have been linked to decline in wildlife populations, as well as disease and abnormalities in both humans and wildlife.
  • Persistent - POPs persist for a very long time in the environment; it may take them decades or even centuries to be degraded. 
  • Mobile - POPs travel long distances and are widely distributed by natural processes via soil, water, and air.
  • Bio-accumulate - POPs do not dissolve in water, but the vast majority are readily absorbed in fatty tissue, thereby accumulating in organisms and increasing in concentrations further up in the food chain. 

 Effects of POPs on Humans and the Environment


Human Health Impacts

The extent of the effects of exposure to POPs on the population of Trinidad and Tobago is not yet fully assessed or understood. However, the following tables lists some possible adverse effects of POPs exposure to adults and on foetuses and infants respectively:

Environmental and Wildlife Impacts

There is insufficient data available to properly assess the extent of the effects of POPs on the environment in Trinidad and Tobago. However, some ecosystems may be regarded as "hotspots" due to their proximity to dump sites or industrial estates and hence have a higher risk of exposure.

POPs cause problems because they are stored in the fatty tissue or organs of animals and as such accumulate as you go further up the food chain (bioconcentrate). The build-up of POPs in wildlife can lead to:
    • Disruption of the Endocrine System e.g. thyroid problems
    • Cancer 
    • Genetic Defects
    • Weakened Immune Systems
    • Declines in populations. POPs are especially dangerous to a variety of aquatic and avian species.


 What is the world doing about POPs?

In a bid to deal with the POPs problem, the majority of the world’s nations signed on to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which entered into force in 2001. The Stockholm Convention is a global agreement to protect human health and the environment by restricting and ultimately eliminating the production, use, trade, release and storage of POPs.

 >>> For more information on the Stockholm Convention, visit 


List of POPs addressed under the Stockholm Convention


The Stockholm Convention lists POPs under specific Annexes as follows:
  • Annex A -  POPs for elimination in production and use.
  • Annex B -  POPs for restriction in production and use.
  • Annex C - Unintentionally produced POPs (or uPOPs) for reductions in releases and ultimate elimination.  

National Implementation Plan (NIP)

Parties to the Stockholm Convention are required to promote the best available technologies and practices for replacing existing POPs with safer alternatives while preventing the development of new ones. Additionally, parties to the Convention are obligated to develop a National Implementation Plan (NIP), which details ways to measure, manage, and reduce or eliminate POPs.


 What is Trinidad and Tobago doing? - The Fight against POPs

The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT) signed on to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in 2002.  As a signatory to the Convention,  the GORTT in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme - Global Environment Facility (UNDP/GEF), successfully developed a National Implementation Plan (NIP) in 2013, which addresses the management of POPs.

The National Implementation Plan for Trinidad and Tobago can be found via the following link:

Status of POPs in Trinidad and Tobago

According to the NIP: 
  • Trinidad and Tobago has no significant stockpiles of POPs, nor does it produce or import any POPs pesticides. 
  • The Ministry of Health, through the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Inspectorate (PTCI) has ensured that harmful chemicals are not utilized on the local market and continues to monitor the situation to ensure compliance with all existing regulations. 
  • Trinidad and Tobago is a major gas producer, exporter of ammonia and methanol and is the principal supplier of fuel to the entire Caribbean region. These industrial activities such as gas flaring along with open burning of large masses of vegetation and landfills containing rubber and plastics, landfill leachate, waste oil dumping, and burning of domestic waste account for the majority of uPOPs released in the country.
  •  Although there is no specific legislation for the implementation of the Stockholm Convention, there are laws and regulations such as the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Act, the Negative Import/Export List, the Water and Air Pollution Rules and the Petroleum Regulations (Section on flaring and venting), which aid with POPs management.
  • Trinidad and Tobago has the capability to treat and dispose of POPs chemicals in an environmentally sound manner.


 How Can You Help in the Fight Against POPs?

The following table outlines some ways in which the average citizen can help to reduce POPs exposure to both themselves and the environment in order to contribute towards a healthy lifestyle:

Be aware! Some examples of common everyday products that may contain POPs:


For more information and any questions:

 Email us at or Leave a comment below.  

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  1. Comment posted by 'Ravi' on 26/04/2016

    I have a neighbour that persistently burns rubbish at frequent intervals. Even though I spoke to her telling her it is distressing me since I suffer with asthma and I have a two year old child she is insistent that she must burn. I live downwind from her and she keeps getting fire permits from the fire station at Tunapuna even though the fire warden is aware of my medical condition. Please advise me as to how to get clean air to breathe once more. on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

    on 26/04/16

  2. Comment posted by 'Trinity' on 28/04/2016

    this is interesting, that we should be talking about 'organic' products and produce. Where is the definition of the word? We don't even recycle in this country as a national policy and our electronic waste is taken up and to the dump by the 'grass truck'! To ensure that government is on the right track why don't we find the right buttons to push for basic regulations to be enforced w.r.t. Chemical usage and waste burning, tree cutting, dumping, tyre protest, etc on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

    on 28/04/16

    1. Thank you for your interest in the topic. The current situation is certainly not ideal and there are challenges. However, there are some steps being taken to deal with the issue. For instance the National Waste Recycling Policy was approved by Cabinet in 2015, and seeks to provide the guidance to enable Trinidad and Tobago to establish an appropriate legislative, administrative and institutional framework for waste reduction and recycling. In addition, the government has also adopted a Green Government Policy, which is currently being implemented by the Ministry of Planning and Development. In the interim however, there are a couple of local companies that recycle e-waste.

  3. Thanks for another great post..Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment around the world. This is a dangerous issue for the whole world..
    organic pesticide for soil