Chlorine Debate, How White Do You Want It?

1315 words - 5 pages

Chlorine is one of the world's most widely used chemicals, the buildingelement vital to almost every United States industry. We use chlorine andchlorine-based products whenever we drink a glass of water, buy food wrapped inplastic, purchase produce in the supermarket, pour bleach into a washing machine,have a prescription filled, print out a computer document like this one, or evendrive a car. (Abelson 94)Chlorine, a member of the halogen (salt-forming) group of metallicelements, was first made by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1774, whotreated hydrochloric acid with manganese dioxide. In 1810, the English chemistSir Humphrey Davy determined that chlorine was a chemical element and named itfrom the Greek word meaning greenish-yellow. One hundred and eighty-fiveyears later, chlorine compounds are ubiquitous components in the manufacturingof paper, plastics, insecticides, cleaning fluids, antifreeze, paints, medicines, andpetroleum products. The unfortunate and unavoidable by-product of thesemanufacturing processes is dioxin, one of the most toxic substances on the planetOlsen 2earth. Dioxins are also produced whenever chlorine containing substances, suchas PVC, are burned.Life as we know it will change, if a Greenpeace campaign is successful.The powerful environmental group has mounted a well-organized campaign thathas as its objective nothing less than a total, worldwide ban on chlorine. With thepublic health and billions of dollars at stake, the debate over chlorine has becomeone of the world's most contentious and controversial issues. 'Is a chlorine-freefuture possible?' asked Bonnie Rice, a spokesperson for Greenpeace's ChlorineFree Campaign. 'Yes, it can be done without massive disruption of the economyand of society, if it is done in the right matter.' (Gossen 94)The chlorine industry and its allies say a total ban on chlorine would beneither wise, possible, nor economically feasible. 'We find the chlorine campaignoutrageous in its scope and purpose,' explained Leo Anziano, the Chairman of theWashington-based Chlorine Chemistry Council, and organization that lobbies onbehalf of the chlorine industry. 'We believe it's based on pure emotion and not onscience. Without any real study, it's been determined that all organochlorines(compounds containing chlorine) are harmful'. The chlorine industry haspresented many statistics on what it says will be the cast to society of substitutingother substances for chlorine, and these figures are staggering. The net cost toconsumers would exceed $90 billion a year, about $1,440 a year for a family offour, according to studies conducted by the Chlorine Institute. About 1.3 millionjobs depend on the chlorine industry, an amount equal to the number of jobs in thestate of Oregon. Wages and salaries paid to those employees totaled more than$31 billion in 1990, approximately the same as the total payroll that year for allstate and local government employees in Oregon. (WHO 94-95)Olsen 3With its call for...

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