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Environmentalists Applaud U.S.-Canada Report

February 17, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An international panel’s renewed call to phase out industrial use of chlorine is winning praise from environmentalists, who say the chemical is linked to cancer.

The recommendation was rejected by the chemical industry, saying there was no scientific justification for doing away with chlorine. Producers said the price for replacing chlorine in everything from plastics to medicine could hit $100 billion.

The International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian panel formed to settle disputes and set standards for bodies of water shared by the countries, made the recommendation Wednesday in its seventh biennial report on Great Lakes water quality.

Commissioners pushed for a more specific strategy and time frame for ending the flow of dangerous chemicals directly into the Great Lakes region, both through industrial waste streams and via incineration.

Environmentalists, at a press conference hailing the recommendations, intensified their call for an end to many chlorine uses, particularly bleaching procedures used by pulp and paper mills.

″The debate is no longer whether to phase out these chemicals, but how,″ said George Coling, a Great Lakes specialist with the Sierra Club.

The commission’s U.S. co-chairman, Gordon Durnil, said evidence shows a danger from some chlorine compounds.

″You’ve got some really major problems going on,″ Durnil said. ″Increases in breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometriosis. There’s a 50 percent reduction in sperm count worldwide. You can in many cases trace it to an organochloride.″

He acknowledged that many of the studies that drew those conclusions didn’t involve human data, but added, ″You can’t use humans as guinea pigs.″

The Chlorine Chemistry Council wants to see risk-benefit studies that compare dangers posed by chlorine and chlorine substitutes with ″the risks of not having chlorine available to society,″ said its managing director, Brad Lienhart.

Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co., the world’s largest producer of chlorine, said 90 percent of it is used internally for such products as solvents and plastics, said Joe Stearns, the company’s director of chlorine issues.

Such drugs as antihistamines and blood pressure-control products either contain chlorine or chlorine is used to make them, Stearns said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rules for pulp and paper mills that involve substituting chlorine dioxide for chlorine. One company, Champion International Corp. of Stamford, Conn., already has achieved discharge standards by substituting that chemical, spokeswoman Mary Green said.

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