The most well-known persistent toxic substances (PTS) are persistent organic pollutants (POPs), organic chemical substances that possess a particular combination of physical and chemical properties, such that they remain intact for long periods, accumulate in the tissues of living organisms (bioaccumulation) and have toxic effects. They include various pesticides, industrial chemicals and unintentional chemical by-products such as dioxins. POPs are now globally distributed, including in environments where they have never been used, and are linked to a range of health effects including cancer, allergies and hypersensitivity, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders, and disruption of the immune system. Other persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBTs) substance include organometallic substances, such as organomercury. The attributes of POPs and PBTs mean they will continue to pose risks to human health and the environment for an extended period. This POSTnote will set out the ongoing environmental and human health concerns in relation to persistent and accumulative chemicals, both in terms of legacy issues and recently identified risks, and the regulatory approaches to addressing these challenges.
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