Chlorine: Safe Chemical or Toxic Threat?

The Christian Science Monitor, December 15, 1993 | Go to article overview

Chlorine: Safe Chemical or Toxic Threat?


ADVOCATES say chlorine is as much a part of society as the power that lights our homes. Opponents say it is a toxic threat we had better learn to live without.

Experts have yet to weigh in with definitive opinions, so the debate rages over the chemical that makes clothes whiter, water cleaner, and, perhaps, lives more risky.

The International Joint Commission recommended in 1992 that chlorine gradually be phased out of industrial use in the Great Lakes region. The group, a six-member American-Canadian panel studying environmental issues in the region, is expected to reiterate that position in a report due out early next year.

"It's used in so many aspects of everyday life. It would be like, what if we got rid of electricity? ... It's the same sort of thing," says Debbie Schwartz, spokeswoman for the Chemical Manufacturers Association's Chlorine Chemistry Council.

Bonnie Rice, of Greenpeace's Chlorine Free Campaign, disagrees.

"They always talk about how phasing out chlorine is going to end life as we know it," she says. "But using chlorine is going to end life as we know it. We're seeing tremendous effects on wildlife that are caused by the use of chlorine."

Chlorine is a poisonous chemical used in bleaching, water purification, and other industrial applications. …

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