This month's winner is the Chlorine Chemistry Council (CCC). The CCC is a U.S.-based lobby group representing a chlorine subcommittee of another U.S. industry group, the Chemical Manufacturers Association. CCC placed this advertisement in the U.S. Congress newspaper, Roll Call, on February 27, 1996.
Amidst the groundswell of evidence that chlorine chemicals and their accidental byproducts are slowly destroying life on earth, the CCC is responding with gigantic public relations campaigns and contributions to Washington politicians.
The CCC plans to increase its US$3.5 million research budget by two-thirds in its next year of operation, in order to prove that chlorine products are safe. And to ensure that the chlorine industry is not encumbered by pesky regulations, the CCC's member companies have joined other polluters in contributing US$46
million toward congressional reelection campaigns between 1989 and 1994.
The CCC has been clouding public debate on the dangers of chlorine chemicals by calling for more research and "sound science."
As Greenpeace's Rick Hind explained, "The Chlorine Chemistry Council has promoted a kind of "cigarette science" to delay the inevitable actions necessary to eliminate dioxin. The danger is that a delay will cause a crisis-style restructuring of the industry, rather than a transition plan that takes into account the needs of the workers and impacted communities." Mr. Hind further noted, "The Chlorine Chemistry Council should leave 'sound science' to the Rolling Stones."
Greenpeace offers the following "point -- counter point" critique of CCC's greenwash ad.
CCC - Protecting the public can be a dangerous job, but thanks to chlorine, it's a lot safer. Chlorine is an essential element in fire-retardant clothing, heat-resistant flashlights, police radios, bullet-resistant vests, glass and protective helmets.
Greenpeace - For every item the CCC claims is safer because of chlorine, there are many more products that are made more dangerous because of chlorine. It is ironic that the CCC attributes safer fire fighting to chlorine, when chlorine chemicals themselves are some of the biggest threats to fire fighters' health. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, a chlorine-based material, is widely used in construction and furnishing of modern homes and buildings. When PVC burns or smolders, it emits hazardous fumes and gases like hydrochloric acid which can literally eat itself into the lining of the lungs. The International Association of Fire Fighters requires that self-contained breathing apparatus be worn "in all fires, no matter how small and should be kept on, regardless of lack of visible flames. PVC has been known to cause death even after a small fire in a copying machine."
CCC - Chlorine is vital to the safety and comfort of your car. It's used to make nylon seat belts and air bags, vinyl dashboards and bumpers, fan and alternator belts, hoses, gaskets and seals.
Greenpeace - Taking one environmental pariah -- the car -- and professing to improve the safety and comfort of it with another environmental pariah -- chlorine -- is typical of greenwash. For each of the vital uses of chlorine in the car, there are safer chlorine-free alternatives. Henry Ford
himself manufactured an automobile almost entirely of non-toxic vegetable material. Chlorine in today's automobile industry actually complicates the recycling of old cars, because when car hulks are smelted to recover steel, the burning PVC components of the car release dioxin into the environment.
CCC - When we think about chlorine, we generally think of water. And with good reason: more than 98% of U.S. public water supplies that are disinfected are made clean and safe with chlorine. Since its introduction in 1908, waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery have become nearly non-existent.
Greenpeace - This statement is classic greenwash strategy -- divert the public's attention from 95% of the problem by highlighting a minor use of your product. Water disinfection accounts for less than 5 percent of total chlorine use. While it is true that chlorine is widely used as a water disinfectant, it
cannot be assumed that chlorinated water is either clean or safe. In fact, chlorine is not effective against certain viruses and other disease-causing organisms, as evidenced by the rising incidence of cryptosporidia and giardiasis among populations using chlorinated water. Further, the chlorination of water is
accompanied by the creation of numerous organochlorine by-products, some of which are highly toxic. As a result, people who drink chlorinated water have higher rates of cancer of the bladder, rectum and colon. Due to these and other difficulties, including the costs of reducing chlorine-related contaminants in
water, some larger urban water suppliers are turning to other disinfectants, such as ultraviolet light, ozonation, or peroxidation.
CCC - At nearly every stage of medical care, chlorine is there. Chlorine is used in the production of 85% of all medicines as well as life-saving equipment such as x-ray film, IV and blood bags. Chlorine also helps provide a
disinfected environment for safe, sanitary care.
Greenpeace - Paradoxically, hospitals' reliance on chlorine-based chemicals and products -- particularly supplies made from PVC -- has generated even more problems for human health and the environment. This is due largely to on-site incineration of PVC waste, a practice which generates dioxin and releases it into the air. Of all waste incinerators, hospital waste incinerators are responsible for the greatest amount of dioxin. Many hospitals in Europe have begun replacing PVC products with items made either from non-toxic materials like glass, metal, and rubber, or from other non-chlorinated plastics. Some hospitals have found alternatives to PVC for almost everything except blood bags and some kinds of tubing.
The CCC proffers all of this greenwash under the heading, "Chlorine. Life wouldn't be the same without it." On this point, we agree. Life without chlorine would be very different from the life we lead now. Dioxin itself would be
impossible without chlorine. Without chlorine, there would be no PVC, DDT, CFCs, PCBs, Agent Orange, or furans. Without chlorine, there would be no hole in the ozone layer. There would be higher sperm counts, lower rates of cancer, and higher I.Q.s. Without chlorine, there would be no CCC and no chlorine industry
In symbolic recognition of this brazen greenwash advertisement, CCC Chairman Clifford P. (Kip) Howlett, Jr. will receive a ream of chlorine-free paper on which the CCC can print its next newsletter.
Text of the Chlorine Chemistry Council Ad
Chlorine. Life wouldn't be the same without it.
Protecting the public can be a dangerous job, but thanks to chlorine, it's a lot safer. Chlorine is an essential element in fire-retardant clothing, heat-resistant flashlights, police radios, bullet-resistant vests, glass and protective helmets.
Chlorine is vital to the safety and comfort of your car. It's used to make nylon seat belts and air bags, vinyl dashboards and bumpers, fan and alternator belts, hoses, gaskets and seals.
When we think about chlorine, we generally think of water. And with good reason: more than 98% of U.S. public water supplies that are disinfected are made clean and safe with chlorine. Since its introduction in 1908, water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery have become nearly non-existent.
At nearly every stage of medical care, chlorine is there. Chlorine is used in the production of 85% of all medicines as well as life-saving equipment such as X-ary film IV and blood bags. Chlorine also helps provide a disinfected environment for safe, sanitary care.
Call 1-800-CL-INFO-1 for more information.
Chlorine Chemistry Council
1300 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22209
For further information about the chemical industry and toxics, check out
the following links:
- Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste
- Good Neighbor Project
- McSpotlight on Cosmetics, Toiletries & Household Cleaners, including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Gillette
- Right-to-Know Network
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
- 102 Greenwash Awards