Government Should Pressure Industry to Limit Chlorine

September 22, 2000
Chlorinated Bodies

''Many industrial plants use chlorine in the manufacture of common
goods, such as plastics, pesticides and paper, in processes that can
create health risks. The government has not been able to overcome
objections by industry to curbing chlorine's use.'' (FPG)

Commentary By Nicholas Regush

'' . . .Chlorine is the chemical that companies use to make a variety of common products, including plastics, pesticides and paper. Chlorine is also used to treat water. Some of the by-products of chlorine usage are pollutants such as PCBs, DDT, and dioxins. . . .

Several years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency had the audacity to suggest that a study be launched to determine how feasible it would be to move away from chlorine to some degree, in say, solvent manufacturing and water treatment.

This did not sit well with the Chemical Manufacturers’ Association or the Chlorine Institute which were not about to take such lip from the EPA or the White House. Imagine, the government actually backed down when the industry turned on some heat. The chemical industry strongly protects current EPA policy, which merely involves some toxicological testing, population studies to measure the effects of certain pollutants, some specific and more detailed investigation of products and pollution control technologies.

In other words, the EPA tries to assess the risk of individual chemicals (as many as time and money allow) with the goal of managing that risk so that it is low enough not to cause any harm. . . .

In the book Pandora’s Poison, Joe Thornton of Columbia University’s Center for Environmental Research and Conservation contends there is enough sound science available to understand that chlorine can cause big trouble to the body and environment and that a wide range of alternatives to this chemical are readily available.

For example, ozone, ultraviolet light are just some of the alternatives to chlorine use in disinfecting our drinking water. Wood, metal, glass and textiles and chlorine-free plastics could replace vinyl applications in construction and packaging.

Thornton’s book should be important reading to both presidential
candidates who think environmental policy is better management of
current pollutants rather than their reduction or replacement. . . .''

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