New children's book teaches about dangerous pollutants
UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio and Anthony McKenzie, director of environmental management, Conservation Division, National Environmental and Protection Agency (NEPA), examine the activity book during the handover ceremony. (Photo: JIS)

A new activity and colouring book launched teaches children and their caregivers about the sources and dangers of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Jamaica, including the risk of severe damage to human health and the environment.

The colouring book was produced as one of several public education products under the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded 'National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in Jamaica' project.

Co-implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Multi Country Office in Jamaica and the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, the national project is designed to reduce and eliminate the stockpiles and use of these pollutants in Jamaica.

The five POPs commonly found nationwide are generated by certain pesticides; electrical equipment such as transformers and fluorescent light ballasts; fire retardants to prevent the start or slow the growth of fires; and firefighting foams.

Displaying the activity book that warns children and their parents about pollutants which harm health and the environment are (from left) Bethune Morgan, manager, Pollution and Prevention Branch, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA); Richard Nelson, senior manager, environmental management sub-division, NEPA; UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio; and Kerry Ann Willis, project lead for the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project, 'National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in Jamaica'. (Photo: UNDP)

A UNDP release said expert sources confirm that human exposure to even low levels of POPs can lead to increased cancer risk, reproductive disorders, alteration of the immune system, neurobehavioural impairment, endocrine disruption, genotoxicity, and increased birth defects.

In welcoming the activity book as an important resource for the nation's children, UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio called on schools, community, youth, and parental groups to join the mission to creatively educate the nation about these POPs. "I encourage every parent to secure their own hard copy of POPs and the Family, and to engage your children on the important lessons therein," she urged.

Antonio disclosed that the Stockholm Convention project has so far built the capacity of nearly 200 key stakeholders to reduce or eliminate their usage and stockpiles of POPs. She said this includes stakeholders who utilise polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's); members of the public and private sector companies which now have improved knowledge on data collection required to produce a national implementation plan to advance reduction and elimination of POPs; and the fire brigade which has improved its knowledge of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), a known POP in firefighting foam.

The National Environment and Planning Agency's (NEPA) director of environmental management, Conservation Division, Anthony McKenzie said the activity book will serve to strengthen the important message about POPs and form a significant part of NEPA's public education outreach to schools. He expressed the hope that the message of the book could be adopted within the formal education system.

Jamaica acceded to the Stockholm Convention in May 2004, and has since committed to national actions to reduce the importation, stockpile, and use of these POPs. The GEF-financed intervention is a two-year, $38.3-million roject that started in 2019 and ended in 2021.

UNDP has indicated its commitment to supporting Jamaica's vision for a pollution-free environment consistent with national priorities and the Stockholm Convention.

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