Mercury polluting plants urged to clean up act

The refusal of five top polluting chlorine plants in America to switch to mercury free technology is an "outrage" say environmentalists.

Oceana, an organisation that campaigns on marine issues, has published a report into the elimination of mercury use in chlorine plants.

The report called Cleaning Up: Taking Mercury-Free Chlorine Production to the Bank analyses more than 115 plants that are eliminating or have successfully eliminated mercury use but names five yet to follow suit.

Jackie Savitz, director of Oceana’s Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination, said: “The chlorine industry’s dirty little secret is that five US plants are releasing thousands of pounds of mercury into the environment each year.

“Their refusal to switch to mercury-free technology is an outrage that should concern citizens and shareholders alike.”

Oceana says the five plants in Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, West Virginia and Wisconsin are among the top mercury polluters in the country.

All five states where mercury-cell chlorine plants operate have issued fish consumption advisories for mercury in their rivers and lakes.

Most human exposure to mercury results from eating contaminated fish and it can cause serious health problems especially in children.

High exposure levels can lead to brain damage, blindness, seizures and speech problems.

Oceana argues that although the cost for plants of converting to mercury free technology runs into the millions they reap economic benefits in the long term.

These include greater energy efficiency, increased capacity allowing more sales and greater profits and elimination of costs from fines, upgrades and clean ups.

The technology is already used to produce 90 percent of the chlorine in the United States.

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David Gibbs

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