Poison Plants: Chlorine Factories Are a Major Global Source of Mercury

You may already be aware of the risk to public health that is caused by mercury contamination in the environment. Mercury contamination can cause a variety of toxic effects in adults, and even more severe consequences in still-developing children.

How do we become exposed to mercury? The greatest single source of human contamination, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is the fish we eat. Fish contaminated by mercury can be found today in every ocean in the world -- and at our seafood counters. The US Food and Drug Administration and the EPA have advised women of child-bearing age and children against eating certain types of fish -- including albacore tuna.

But how do the fish get contaminated in the first place?

There are several sources of mercury pollution that contaminates the fish we eat. Probably the best known are coal-fired power plants. But there is another major contributor to this contamination problem -- one that you probably have never even heard of.

Today, Oceana is releasing a groundbreaking new report: "Poison Plants: Chlorine Factories Are a Major Global Source of Mercury." In it, we detail how one tiny subset of industry -- chlorine factories using an outdated production method known as "mercury-cell" chlorine production -- could be nearly as big a cause of mercury contamination as all the power plants in the United States put together.

* Read "Poison Plants": http://www.oceana.org/mercury/report.html

90% of American chlorine production is mercury-free; only 9 mercury-cell chlorine plants remain in operation in the U.S. today. But these nine plants, on average, each released five times as much mercury into the atmosphere in 2002 as did the average power plant -- and when you factor in so-called "lost mercury" and "fugitive emissions", which go unmonitored, releases from these nine plants may be as high as those from all power plants across the U.S.

In seven of the eight states where they operate, these plants are the number one source of mercury in that state!

If the U.S. government followed the existing laws instead of weakening existing regulations, mercury-cell chlorine production could be a thing of the past. However, they're not doing that -- so we have decided to step up to the plate.

We've set up a section of our Web site at http://www.oceana.org/mercury to host this important report, give you ways to take action on this issue, and help you learn more. And we've set up a post on our blog, the Oceana Network, where you can discuss "Poison Plants" with Oceana staff and other Wavemakers around the world.

* Discuss "Poison Plants" on the Oceana Network:

We're mobilizing for safe seafood and healthy families. Read the report and stop by the Web site to learn what you can do to help!

Thanks for your time -- remember, if you have questions I'm always at wavemaker@oceana.org

For the oceans,

Jason Lefkowitz
Manager, E-Activism


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Januar 2005

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