Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Proposal to Ban Chlorine Touches Nerve

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Proposal to Ban Chlorine Touches Nerve

Article excerpt

FROM VINYL siding to shower curtains and from toilet paper to water pipes, chlorine is in thousands of products. Now President Bill Clinton's administration is considering banning the chemical, bringing a quick response from industry.

The topic has come to the fore because lawmakers are working to overhaul a law that protects lakes and streams from pollution, including highly toxic releases of chlorine compound byproducts.

Environmentalists, especially Greenpeace, have fought for years to curtail the use of chlorine, especially in the making of paper. In that process, chlorine is blamed for contaminating water and fish with cancer-causing dioxin and other toxins.

Environmentalists argue that substitutes are readily available to bleach paper.

Some chlorine byproducts - dioxins, PCBs, DDT and others - already have been banned or curtailed because they are linked to cancer, birth defects, neurological impairment and reproductive problems.

But environmentalists argue that these chemical byproducts cannot be adequately controlled unless chlorine as a chemical class is replaced. Last week a joint U.S.-Canadian commission for the third year agreed, saying the continuing presence of chlorine-based toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes poses a serious health risk.

"Dealing with thousands of chemicals individually . . . has and will continue to be a never-ending quest," said the commission. It proposed that classes of "persistent toxic chemicals" be removed from use.

EPA Administrator Carol Browner proposed a detailed study into chlorine's health effects, followed within three years by "a national strategy for substituting, reducing, or prohibiting the use of chlorine and chlorinated compounds."

Fred Webber, president of the Chemical Manufacturers Association, said the EPA proposal "came completely out of the blue." He promised a "full court press" against the proposal.

Suddenly lawmakers and reporters were bombarded with an avalanche of information touting the benefits of chlorine, and the economic costs of phasing it out. …

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