An overwhelming majority of Americans want new technology and regulations applied to older chlorine plants to help eliminate mercury pollution, according to a nationwide poll released today by international ocean conservation group Oceana. The across-the-board high level of support expressed for cleaning up chlorine factories is “extremely rare,” the polling firm said.
Conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the poll revealed that 88 percent of Americans surveyed want the nine U.S. chlorine plants that still use an outdated mercury-cell manufacturing process to upgrade to modern, readily available mercury-free technology in order to eliminate mercury pollution.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to mercury pollution, democracy doesn’t rule. If it did, there would be a landslide victory for phasing out mercury use in making chlorine. The chlorine industry as a whole evidently agrees with the public, since 90 percent of the industry has already gone mercury-free. Now the public wants the other 10 percent to follow suit,” said Jackie Savitz, Oceana’s Pollution Campaign Director.
Oceana commissioned the survey as part of its Stop Seafood Contamination campaign, which aims to stop mercury contamination by chlorine factories. The survey sought to discover Americans’ views toward mercury contamination from chlorine plants. The polling firm randomly chose 800 respondents from every state in the union, including Alaska and Hawaii. The telephone survey was conducted Dec. 8-12, 2004 and has a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Al Quinlan, president of Greenburg Quinlan Rosner Research, noted the unusually broad public support for new technology regulations governing older chlorine plants.
"We have conducted dozens of national surveys on issues through the years, and the nearly universal support for these reforms is extremely rare and is evident among every subset of the American public," Quinlan said.
Among the findings in the poll:
* 88 percent of Americans want the nine renegade U.S. chlorine plants that continue to use mercury to upgrade to readily available mercury-free technology in order to eliminate mercury pollution.
* 95 percent of the public favor requiring chlorine plants to clean up mercury contamination in order to protect plant workers and neighboring communities.
* 91 percent favor a comprehensive phase-out of the use of mercury to produce chlorine.
In January, Oceana released a groundbreaking report exposing six U.S. chlorine manufacturing companies as a major source of mercury pollution. Oceana’s analysis of industry and government data showed that the chlorine industry could not account for 123 tons of mercury that it lost – in addition to the 30 tons it admitted releasing – in 2000, 2002, and 2003. Oceana also showed that the average mercury-based chlorine plant released twice as much mercury into the air as the average of the 100 most mercury-emitting power plants in 2002.
All this mercury comes from just nine plants, which Oceana has dubbed The Nasty Nine. The risks caused by this mercury are needless and preventable. Not only is 90 percent of U.S. chlorine produced without the use of mercury, but the European Union has required its chlorine factories to stop using mercury by 2007. No such requirement exists in the United States. Mercury pollution can accumulate in fish, and the U.S. government warns women and children to limit consumption of mercury-tainted fish, including canned tuna, because mercury can cause brain damage and other problems, especially in children.