Oceana Report Exposes Chlorine Industry as Global Mercury Polluter

Groundbreaking Report Points to Outdated, Unnecessary Technology;

Kicks Off Campaign to Phase Out Mercury Releases From Chlorine Industry

Jan 26, 2005, 00:00 ET from Oceana

    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 and government data concludes that chlorine manufacturers that use outdated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
 United States.
     "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: