The Beacon

CEO Note: Another Chlorine Plant Goes Mercury-Free

Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in the Mediterranean. (Photo: Oceana / Keith Ellenbogen)

We all know that seafood is good for you, and that fish is high in heart-healthy omega-3s. And I’m sure you’ve also heard warnings about mercury levels in certain species of fish, especially if you or anyone you know is starting a family. But you might not know that the chlorine industry was a major source of mercury released to our environment.

The chlorine industry used to release massive amounts of mercury into the environment and into our oceans, where it accumulated in fish and other predators high on the food chain. As of 2004, when Oceana began its campaign, an estimated 90 percent of the chlorine industry had already switched to newer, mercury-free production methods, a technology that had been around for decades. More than 100 factories globally had switched to this modern technology, which is better for the environment and increases energy savings.

Unfortunately, at that time, nine U.S. chlorine plants still used mercury, and as a result sent at least 10,000 pounds of mercury into the environment each year. Oceana launched a campaign to reduce these unnecessary mercury releases and to encourage the FDA to require posting mercury warnings wherever seafood is sold. After several years of campaigning, we were successful in pressuring seven of these nine plants to convert to mercury-free production.  

I now have great news to share with you—Ashta Chemicals, one of only two chlorine plants that continue to use mercury today—announced that it too will go mercury free. This means that of the original nine plants, only one still uses mercury, and that one uses it for only 25 percent of its production.

This victory comes at an important moment, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently updated their mercury-advisory guidelines for the first time in 10 years. A draft of the updated guidelines encourages pregnant or breast-feeding women to eat more low-mercury fish—suggesting a diet of 8 to12 ounces of fish per week.

Fish is a healthy, sustainable meal for millions of people across the world—but only if we keep it free of toxins. Your support ensures that Oceana can continue to make sure that fish remain a healthy food option for our growing population. With this victory, our oceans and our favorite seafood just got healthier.

For the oceans,
Andrew Sharpless
Chief Executive Officer


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