O'Neill Testifies on Mercury From Chlor-Alkali Plants

by Ben Somberg

May 15, 2009

On Tuesday, CPR Member Scholar Catherine O'Neill testified about mercury pollution from chlor-alkali plants at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

At least one in ten women of childbearing age in the United States has blood levels of mercury that threaten the neurological health of her newborn babies. Chlor-alkali plants are a major source of mercury pollution (which we are exposed to primarily through eating fish), even though only four of the plants in the United States still use a mercury-emitting technology. It's completely unnecessary, O'Neill argued, because the industry developed an alternative technology decades ago that does not use any mercury. Approximately 95 percent of chlor-alkali is produced using those newer processes, "diaphragm cell" and "membrane cell."

Said O'Neill: "For years now, we’ve tried waiting this problem out, allowing the chlor-alkali plants to switch over to mercury-free production methods on their own. It’s time to stop waiting, and start requiring them to clean up their act, so as to reduce this serious and entirely unnecessary risk."

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