You'd think that a substance the EPA itself deems one of the most toxic ever released into the world's waters would've been outlawed a long time ago, right? Well, you'd be wrong: only now, several decades after its harmful effects had already been well established, is tributyltin (TBT) expected to be banned. Once the White House Office of Budget and Management clears it, the treaty will go to the United Nations, where it will be ratified by the full U.N. International Maritime Organization.
Tributyltin, a type of biocide, is a cheap and powerful barnacle and algae killer that was once commonly used on most of the world's commercial ships. It is typically mixed into the bottom coating for hulls, where it helps keep the ship clear of barnacles and other similar species. TBT is highly prized by sailboat racers and yachtsmen who use it to make their hulls move more easily through the water and by certain environmentalists, who argue it can help prevent the spread of invasive species from one port to another. Yet it wasn't long until scientists and policymakers found some serious downsides to its use: by the mid-1990s, over 500 research papers had linked the chemical to adverse health and environmental effects — including "profound reproductive effects" and diminished marine-species populations. Lindy Johnson, a lawyer who works for NOAA, called it "very, very bad stuff."
Though many major European and U.S. chemical and paint companies, which have endorsed the treaty, had already stopped using it by 2001, it became widely prevalent in much of Asia, particularly in China, which just recently pledged to not add DDT to its hull coatings anymore. The Bush administration has yet to approve the treaty, though it is expected to do so within the coming months. Robert Martin, the global marine-business director for Arch Chemicals Inc. and one of the treaty negotiators, expressed a view that is no doubt on the minds of many when he said: "It'd be good for the U.S. to be involved with an environmental treaty, especially in this administration."
A long overdue piece of legislation, yes, but one that can still do much good.
Via ::McClatchy Newspapers: Toxic ship-paint additive banned — after 40 years (news website)