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#363 - Taking The Handle Off The Chlorine Pump, 10-Nov-1993

The American Public Health Association (APHA) on October 27, 1993,
unanimously passed a resolution urging American industry to stop using
the chemical chlorine.[1] APHA is a professional society founded in
1872 representing all disciplines and specialties in public health.
Passage of the "chlorine resolution" by APHA is a heavy blow to the
Chlorine Institute (a trade association for chlorine makers) and to
major users of chlorine, such as the paper industry, the pesticide
industry, and the makers of chlorinated organic chemicals.

APHA members had discussed and argued the merits of the "chlorine
resolution" for the past year, with industrial representatives working
behind the scenes to derail the resolution, and environmental health
advocates urging its passage.

Here, with footnote references deleted, is the resolution: RECOGNIZING

The American Public Health Association,

** Recalling APHA's long standing commitment to primary prevention in
the reduction of environmental pollution, expressed recently in
Resolution 8912: Public Health Control of Hazardous Pollutants, which
states that the APHA: "will actively support legislation which
establishes prevention as the primary promise for controlling and
managing hazardous air emissions, and expeditiously reduces emissions,
for existing and new sources, of all substances which are reasonably
anticipated to pose hazards to human health and the environment;"

** Remembering APHA's understanding that often classes of compounds
must be considered as a group for preventive/public health purposes,
recently expressed in Resolution 8709: Depletion of Stratospheric Ozone
Layer, which supported "a global policy that calls for a ban on CFC
(chlorofluorocarbon) aerosol propellents, and a timely phase-out of
known ozone depleting substances within 10 years:"

** Noting that chlorinated organic chemicals--including PCBs,
pesticides, dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans, and many other products
or by-products of chlorine based industrial processes--compromise the
majority of identified persistent xenobiotic substances, whose half
lives or those of their toxic by-products are 8 weeks or more, in the
environment and human tissues and fluids and are also the primary cause
of stratospheric ozone depletion;

** Noting that virtually all chlorinated organic compounds that have
been studied exhibit at least one of a wide range of serious toxic
effects such as endocrine dysfunction, developmental impairment, birth
defects, reproductive dysfunction and infertility, immunosuppression,
and cancer, often at extremely low doses and that many chlorinated
organic compounds, such as methylene chloride and trichloroethylene,
are recognized as significant workplace hazards;

** Understanding that stratospheric ozone depletion caused by a
relatively wide range of halogenated compounds including chlorinated
compounds is expected to cause millions of additional cases of human
skin cancer, cataracts and immune suppression, as well as major effects
on aquatic and terrestrial food chains;

** Understanding that in the Great Lakes, a vast well-studied ecosystem
which provides an early warning sentinel for xenobiotic-induced health
effects, contamination by a broad spectrum of chlorinated organic
chemicals has caused a wide range of reproductive, developmental, and
behavioral dysfunction effects in 14 species at the top of the food
chain--including humans;

** Recognizing the subtle and widespread effects on human and wildlife
health attributed to exposure to chlorinated organic chemicals and our
current inability to identify, predict or control the release of these
compounds from manufacturing processes, the bi-national Science
Advisory Board of the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes
concluded by the weight of scientific evidence that exposure to all
organochlorines should be presumed to pose a health problem and that
policies to protect public health should be directed toward eventually
achieving no exposure to chlorinated organic chemicals as a class
rather than continuing to focus on a series of isolated, individual

** Understanding, as has the International Joint Commission on the
Great Lakes (IJC), that the only feasible and prudent approach to
eliminating the release and discharge of chlorinated organic chemicals
and consequent exposure is to avoid the use of chlorine and its
compounds in manufacturing processes;

** Clearly realizing that implementation of such a goal, in general,
should proceed initially via an investigation of the feasibility of
phasing out chlorine and chlorinated organic chemicals by industry

** Yet recognizing that specific deadlines for phase outs are
appropriate in industrial categories where alternative processes have
already been developed, such as, for bleaching in the pulp and paper
industry or degreasing in manufacturing as has been adopted by IBM, GE,
and others;

** But recognizing as well, that some uses of chlorine, in particular
its use in residual disinfection of drinking water and in
pharmaceuticals, have no currently available alternatives;

** Further, being aware that the phase out of ozone depleting
chlorinated chemicals in feed stock has been a major reason for the
closure of 5 chlorine plants during the past two years resulting in
substantial layoffs;

** Projecting that further restrictions on the use of chlorine, or the
production of chlorinated compounds, will result in additional job

** Recognizing that unemployment leads to increases in physical and
mental illness, death, and crime, requires environmental protection
policies that contain provisions for a transition which insures that
displaced workers do not bear unfair societal costs through the loss of
income, benefits, or jobs as has been the case in the past;

** Understanding that the Job Training Partnership Act serves only 4%
of all eligible workers and that these workers, on average, are
eligible for jobs paying near or below the family poverty level, and
that The Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers Union proposal for a policy
based on the GI Bill of 1944 would allow workers to maintain their
families' standard of living while retaining and securing jobs in non
polluting industries;

1. Recognizes that chlorine-containing organic compounds are found to
pose public health risks involving the workplace, consumer products and
the general environment;

2. Recognizes that the elimination of chlorine and/or chlorinated
organic compounds from certain manufacturing processes, products and
uses may be the most cost-effective and health protective way to reduce
health and environmental exposures to chlorinated organic compounds;

3. Recognizes that industry has the capacity and creativity to
undertake a technological transformation of chemical manufacturing
processes, products, and uses to reduce or eliminate these risks;

4. Concludes that there should be a rebuttable presumption [a
presumption that may be rebutted by other evidence] that chlorine-
containing organic chemicals pose a significant risk, therefore, before
introducing new chemicals into commerce, using existing chemicals in
new applications or continuing to use these chemicals in manufacturing
processes or products beyond some future date, industry should either:

a. Demonstrate that the risk is not significant for a particular
compound, use or manufacturing process, or

b. Demonstrate that there are no substitutions, product reformulations
or changes in manufacturing processes that will result in a lower risk,

c. Further, industry should ensure that substitutes for existing
products or changes in manufacturing processes will result in a lower

5. Supports legislation that will assist workers who are displaced by
resulting technological changes in the chlorine industry; and

6. Finally, asks for measurable and progressive reduction toward the
elimination of the use of chlorine-based bleaches in the pulp and paper
industry and ozone-depleting chlorinated organic chemicals. [END.]

Editorial Commentary from Rachel

In 1848-49, long before people knew that bacteria caused disease, an
epidemic of cholera broke out in London. Cholera causes vomiting and
severe diarrhea leading quickly to dehydration, shock, and death.

A young physician, John Snow, made a map of the city and, on it, he
plotted cases of cholera. Snow's crude epidemiological study revealed
that 500 cases of cholera were clustered near a public water pump at
the corner of Broad and Cambridge streets. Snow removed the handle from
the Broad Street pump, and the cholera epidemic in that neighborhood
subsided.[2] The bacteria that causes cholera wasn't identified until

The APHA's "chlorine resolution" of 1993 urges us to remove the handle
from the chlorine pump. We don't understand all the mechanisms by which
chlorine is harming ecosystems, wildlife, and humans. From what is
known, it seems clear that, if we wait for conclusive scientific proof,
the destruction, which is already vast, may well become irreversible.

Thus the APHA has defined two principles for a truly modern approach to
chemical contamination: (a) regard chemicals as harmful until proven
safe; (b) don't try to control chemicals one-by-one using risk
assessment; instead, avoid irreversible harm by taking precautionary
action to ban or phase out whole classes of chemicals as soon as there
is evidence of harm, not waiting for conclusive scientific proof.

--Peter Montague


[1] For a copy of the full resolution with footnotes, contact the
American Public Health Association, 1015 Fifteenth St., N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20005; phone (202) 789-5600.

[2] Richard Gallagher, DISEASES THAT PLAGUE MODERN MAN (Dobbs Ferry,
N.Y.: Oceana Publications, 1969), pg. 23.

Descriptor terms: american public health association; chlorine;
prevention; preventive medicine; precautionary action; chlorine
institute; skin cancer; cataracts; immune suppression; ozone depletion;
atmosphere; cfcs; pcbs; pesticides; dioxin; pcdfs; toxicity;
chlorinated hydrocarbons; methylene chloride; trichloroethylene; great
lakes; wildlife; ijc; pulp and paper industry; bleaches; degreasing;
ibm; ge; drinking water; pharmaceuticals; jobs; job loss; workers;
economics; economy; job training partnership act; ocaw; regulation;
burden of proof; precautionary principle;

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