Anglers, outdoorsmen, medical professionals and citizens rallied today outside Pittsburgh-based PPG (NYSE:PPG) headquarters calling for the company’s West Virginia chlorine facility to switch to mercury-free technology. The conservation group Oceana has been engaged for the past two years in a campaign to convince PPG to convert from mercury-cell technology to a mercury-free method.
“PPG is the number one mercury emitter in West Virginia, and emits three and one-half times more mercury than the average coal plant in Pennsylvania,” stated Beth Kemler, Seafood Campaign Organizer for Oceana.
PPG’s Natrium, West Virginia, chlorine plant emits approximately 1,200 pounds of mercury per year through stack emissions and fugitive emissions. These emissions are the result of PPG using outdated mercury-cell technology in their chlorine production process. Ninety percent of U.S. chlorine is made using mercury-free technology, which shows that the significant mercury pollution released by these plants is unnecessary and completely preventable.
Eric Olmstead, a chapter president for Trout Unlimited, noted, “In West Virginia, seventy-eight percent of the fish have government advisories for mercury recommending we limit our consumption of them. Pennsylvania, has the second highest levels of mercury contamination in the United States. Trout Unlimited supports curbing mercury emissions.”
Mercury poses serious health risks to those who are exposed to it. The effects of mercury for adults can include fatigue, tremors and even memory loss. Mercury is particularly dangerous because it lingers in the body after exposure. Children are even more vulnerable to the effects of mercury. “Consumption of fish with higher methylmercury levels can lead to elevated levels of mercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children and may harm their developing nervous system. These disabilities have been documented in ability to use language, to process information and in visual/motor integration,” said Michael McCawley, a professor at West Virginia University. “It is estimated that more than 300,000 newborns each year may have increased risk of learning disabilities associated with in utero exposure to methylmercury.” PPG’s plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, will be going mercury-free by the end of next year. A transition to mercury-free technology takes three years, but the plant would remain open during the change.