Tuesday, October 4, 1994

Chlorine Ban: To Be or Not to Be?

By Terri C. Hansen

PROVO, Utah — The question, to ban or not to ban chlorine, has produced considerable debate. USA Today environmental reporter and editor Rae Tyson summarized a 1987 chlorine phase-out recommendation by the International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada, and asked a panel during SEJ's fourth annual conference, "Is a chlorine phase-out necessary?"

"Why are we giving chemicals constitutional rights?" askeded Greenpeace campaigner Bonnie Rice, basing her support of a ban on research studies including the recently issued EPA report that links dioxin, a chlorinated hydrocarbon, with immune system damage to humans and animals.

Attorney Gordon Durnil, chairman of the IJC at the time of its recommendation, said commission members studied the process for two years before recommending a phase-out, based on solid scientific evidence. The chlorine industry responded with a 30-year timetable, he said.

But the industry opposes a phase-out, responded scientist Bill Carroll, a chemical company executive on loan to the Chlorine Chemical Council. Carroll used PVC compounds — used extensively in plumbing and sewer lines — to illustrate the negative economic and ecological impact of a phase-out. 96 percent of pesticides are chlorine-based, Carroll said, and almost all water disinfection relies on chlorine.