Experts debate benefits, dangers of chlorine in C&EN point-counterpoint

Get a group of scientists together and mention the word "chlorine" and watch the sparks start to fly. That's exactly what happened at a forum on a different, but related, topic of sustainability, sponsored by the news magazine Chemical & Engineering News, a publication of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

As a result of a "vigorous and provocative debate" about chlorine at that forum, the magazine's editors asked two leading experts in the field of chlorine chemistry - Terrence Collins, professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and C.T. (Kip) Howlett Jr., executive director of the Chlorine Chemistry Council and vice president of the American Chemistry Council - each representing opposing viewpoints, to participate in a special "point-counterpoint" exchange, which appears in the magazine's Oct. 18 issue.

Collins charges that the dangers of chlorine are not being adequately addressed by industry or academe. He says alternatives to chlorine and chlorine processes must be pursued. Howlett contends that industry is, in fact, succeeding in lessening the impact of chlorine on the environment. He cites numerous positive contributions that chlorine has made to society.

Some highlights of the exchange:

  • Howlett point: "Products and services that result in 45 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product are rooted in chlorine chemistry. In addition to water disinfectants and pharmaceuticals, chlorine is critical to 25 percent of all medical plastics, 70 percent of all disposable medical applications, and 95 percent of crop protection chemicals; it also plays a significant role in the production of soaps and detergents, aluminum, and pulp and paper. The chlor-alkali sector is a solid job producer in the U.S. with a payroll of more than $360 million and more than 37,000 jobs."

  • Collins counterpoint: "The Chlorine Chemistry Council public relations initiativ

Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society

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