WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Mercury-based chlorine manufacturing
plants are a major source of mercury contamination in the United States,
releasing more mercury to the air per plant, on average, than coal-burning
power plants, Oceana said in a report released today. A similar problem
exists in Europe, where this unnecessary use of mercury is subject to a
government-mandated phase-out. The ocean conservation group's groundbreaking
report launched its Seafood Contamination Campaign, an ambitious international
effort to reduce mercury contamination and protect public and ocean health.
Oceana's report is the first to focus on the chlorine industry as a major
source of mercury contamination. The analysis of U.S. and European industry
and government data concludes that chlorine manufacturers that use outdated
mercury-cell technology are a major source of mercury emissions into the
environment, a situation easily remedied by using currently available
Ninety percent of U.S. chlorine is made using mercury-free technology,
which shows that the significant mercury pollution released by these plants is
unnecessary and completely preventable. The European Commission is requiring a
phase-out of mercury use by chlorine factories in Europe by 2007. In the
United Kingdom, chlorine plants generate one-third of the mercury released to
air. In the United States, these mercury-using plants are the No. 1 source of
mercury air pollution in seven of the eight states where they still operate.
ASHTA Chemicals in Ohio is the fifth-largest mercury emitter to the air in the
"Fifteen years ago, Congress amended the Clean Air Act, which requires
companies like these to continually improve to cut down releases of hazardous
chemicals like mercury," said Andrew Sharpless, Oceana's chief executive
officer. "But rather than enforce this law, the EPA is still giving these
chlorine plants a pass and letting them continue to release tons of mercury
every year with their 19th century technology."
In addition to reported releases, according to the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and industry figures, U.S. mercury-cell plants cannot
account for tons of mercury that are "lost" each year. In 2000, the industry
"lost" 65 tons of mercury. Much of this mercury is believed to be released
into the environment. If only half of this "lost" mercury entered the
environment, the chlorine industry would approach coal-fired power plants as
the No. 1 mercury emitter.
"A year ago, the EPA weakened regulations on mercury use in chlorine
manufacturing, but EPA must reverse course and require these chlorine
factories to join the 21st century by using mercury-free technology. In the
meantime, we are calling on the industry to phase out the mercury-emitting
technology," said Jackie Savitz, Oceana's Pollution Campaign Director and
leader of the Seafood Contamination Campaign. "These chlorine manufacturers
are getting a free ride on mercury. Oceana's report proves that we can't keep
overlooking this industry as a polluter. With nine plants responsible for
tons of mercury releases every year, it is time for these companies to take
responsibility and either shut down or update their technology."
Most mercury ingested by humans results from eating contaminated fish.
Mercury can cause serious health problems, especially in children. A U.S. EPA
scientist has estimated that one in six pregnant women has enough mercury in
her blood to pose risks, such as brain damage, to her developing baby. In the
United States, the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration cautioned women of
childbearing age and children to limit the amount and types of seafood they
eat due to the risk of mercury poisoning. Governments around the world have
issued similar warnings.
Six U.S. companies -- the Olin Corporation, Occidental Chemicals Corp.,
PPG Industries, ASHTA Chemicals, Vulcan Materials, Inc., and Pioneer
Companies, Inc. -- are responsible for nine active mercury-cell chlorine
plants operating in eight states: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio,
Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
To read Oceana's report in its entirety, click here: