WASHINGTON, July 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Five chlorine plants that are among the top mercury polluters in the United States would reap economic benefits if they eliminated mercury use, Oceana said today in a new report. Cleaning Up: Taking Mercury-Free Chlorine Production to the Bank, analyzes over 115 chlorine plants that are shifting or have successfully eliminated mercury use. It then shows how the remaining U.S. plants could protect public health and the environment, while increasing profits, by switching to mercury-free technology. Simply switching to mercury-free technology - already used to produce 90 percent of the chlorine in the United States - would increase energy efficiency and provide an opportunity to increase capacity, sales and profits. Instead, these five facilities remain wedded to 110-year-old technology, releasing on average, four times more mercury per plant, than the average power plant. "The chlorine industry's dirty little secret is that five U.S. plants are releasing thousands of pounds of mercury into the environment each year," said Jackie Savitz, Director of Oceana's Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination. "Their refusal to switch to mercury-free technology - a cost-effective solution adopted by the majority of plants around the world - is an outrage that should concern citizens and shareholders alike." The five plants - or Filthy Five as the report labels them - are Ashta Chemicals in Ashtabula, Ohio; Olin Corporation's two plants in Charleston, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga.; PPG Industries in Natrium, W.Va.; and ERCO Worldwide in Port Edwards, Wis. Key Findings: -- If the Filthy Five eliminated mercury use, nearly 4,400 pounds of reported mercury emissions would be eliminated each year. (It takes just 1/70th of a teaspoon to contaminate a 25 acre lake.) -- Although the cost of converting to mercury-free technology runs in the millions, the report shows the majority of costs could be recovered within five years due to energy savings, increased capacity and elimination of fines, upgrades and cleanups. -- Plants that shift save millions of dollars by increasing energy efficiency from 25 to 37 percent. -- Many plants also increase capacity by 20 to 80 percent in the process of converting, increasing sales and profit. -- If just four of the Filthy Five increased capacity by 25 percent, collective sales would increase by more than $300 million. -- ERCO's plant in Wisconsin and Olin's plant in Tennessee are the number one mercury air polluters in their states, while Olin in Georgia and Ashta in Ohio are the third largest sources of mercury air pollution in their states. PPG in West Virginia is the top releaser of mercury to water in the state. Most human mercury exposure results from eating contaminated fish. It can cause serious health problems, especially in children, with very high exposure levels leading to brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, seizures and speech problems. An EPA scientist estimated that one in six women has enough mercury in her blood to pose serious neurological risks to her developing child. The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration have cautioned women of childbearing age and children to avoid certain types of seafood due to the risk of mercury poisoning. All five states where mercury-cell chlorine plants operate have issued fish consumption advisories for mercury in their rivers and lakes. Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world's oceans. Our teams of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. For more information, visit www.Oceana.org.