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POPs Hunter: Smartphone game spreads serious message about pollutants

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Primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall holds a POPs publicity poster during a visit to UNDP.Renowned conservationist and UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall shows support for the #StopthePops campaign during a visit to UNDP in Beijing. Photo: UNDP China

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Heptachlor, Mirex, Toxaphene, Endrin – these are not part of our everyday vocabulary, but without knowing it many of us come into contact with them on a regular basis. These and many others are known as Persistent Organic Pollutants or ‘POPs’. They are organic chemical substances that present a significant risk to people and the planet.

For many people, it’s a difficult topic to understand. That’s why UNDP China is working to spread awareness of the issue, using innovative tools like gamification.

Once these pollutants are released into the environment, they remain there for many years, as they don’t dissolve easily. POPs can travel long distances through air and water and can become widely distributed, accumulating in living organisms - wildlife and humans – the same way mercury often accumulates in fish. Research suggests POPs have cancer-causing properties and can disrupt immune, reproductive and nervous systems.

The good news is that the world is taking action. In 2001, more than a 100 countries signed the Stockholm Convention on protecting human health and the environment from POPs. Governments that have signed the convention pledge to reduce and ultimately eliminate POPs from our daily lives by phasing out production and use of products containing POPs.

A screenshot of the Pops Hunter smartphone gameThe POPs Hunter smartphone game gives players the chance to defeat the 23 pollutants across five game scenarios.

To raise public awareness around the 23 POPs identified, our #StopthePOPs campaign encourages audiences to share the POPs Hunter smartphone game. The campaign was launched at the Seventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Stockholm Convention taking place this month in Geneva.

Compatible with iPhones, iPads, iPod touch as well as Androids, our POPs Hunter game was developed over 10 months in partnership with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. The game is designed to educate general audiences about this set of pollutants by letting them defeat 23 POPs across five game scenarios: food, water, light, ground and sky. Players can either dodge POPs (food), pass through POPs (water), burn POPs (light), smash POPs (ground) or shock them (sky). Players can also pause the game at any time and read more about the Stockholm Convention and watch a POPs animation video.

The POPs Hunter game is a fun way to engage the public, but with our government and private sector partners, we at UNDP are serious about eliminating these pollutants in China and around the globe. Worldwide we have supported 84 countries in implementing projects aimed at better managing POPs. Some 9,500 tonnes of POPs have been safely disposed of as a result, and 335,000 tonnes of contaminated waste have been safeguarded.

Play and share the game, and join us in promoting a world without POPs.

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