Chlorine Debate, How White Do You Want it?

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 1994

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Chlorine is one of the world's most widely used chemicals, the building

element vital to almost every United States industry. We use chlorine and

chlorine-based products whenever we drink a glass of water, buy food wrapped in

plastic, purchase produce in the supermarket, pour bleach into a washing machine,

have a prescription filled, print out a computer document like this one, or even

drive a car. (Abelson 94)

Chlorine, a member of the halogen (salt-forming) group of metallic

elements, was first made by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1774, who

treated hydrochloric acid with manganese dioxide. In 1810, the English chemist

Sir Humphrey Davy determined that chlorine was a chemical element and named it

from the Greek word meaning greenish-yellow. One hundred and eighty-five

years later, chlorine compounds are ubiquitous components in the manufacturing

of paper, plastics, insecticides, cleaning fluids, antifreeze, paints, medicines, and

petroleum products. The unfortunate and unavoidable by-product of these

manufacturing processes is dioxin, one of the most toxic substances on the planet

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earth. Dioxins are also produced whenever chlorine containing substances, such

as PVC, are burned.

Life as we know it will change, if a Greenpeace campaign is successful.

The powerful environmental group has mounted a well-organized campaign that

has as its objective nothing less than a total, worldwide ban on chlorine. With the

public health and billions of dollars at stake, the debate over chlorine has become

one of the world's most contentious and controversial issues. 'Is a chlorine-free

future possible?' asked Bonnie Rice, a spokesperson for Greenpeace's Chlorine

Free Campaign. 'Yes, it can be done without massive disruption of the economy

and of society, if it is done in the right matter.' (Gossen 94)

The chlorine industry and its allies say a total ban on chlorine would be

neither wise, possible,