New Report Shows That Safer Technologies can Eliminate Chemical Hazards at Pulp and Paper Mills

Media Contacts
Brad Ashwell

Industrial Toxics Threaten Communities’ Safety and Health

Florida PIRG

TALLAHASSEE—Pulp and paper mills that use chlorine or chlorine dioxide to whiten paper needlessly endanger more than 5.7 million people, according to a new report released today by Florida PIRG.

The report, Pulp Fiction, identified 74 pulp and paper mills around the country that together endanger more than 5.7 million people by using chlorine or chlorine dioxide to bleach paper. If released, these two hazardous substances have the potential to kill or seriously injure even at relatively low concentrations.

In Florida, six plants when taken together endanger the lives of 408,331 nearby residents by storing approximately 432, 601 pounds of chlorine and chlorine dioxide on site.

“We’ve moved chlorine gas, a chemical weapon, off the battlefield and into our communities,” said Florida PIRG consumer advocate Brad Ashwell. “Fortunately, there are safer technologies available that pulp and paper mills can use to replace the extremely hazardous chemicals used to whiten paper.”.

According to Florida PIRG’s research, bleaching technologies that do not use chlorine or chlorine dioxide are widely available. For example, the totally chlorine-free (TCF) technology whitens paper by using safer substances such as hydrogen peroxide or ozone instead of chlorine. The use of safer technologies like TCF can eliminate or significantly reduce the consequences of a chemical release.

Accidents at chemical facilities have long threatened communities and workers. The realization that a terrorist could use an industrial facility as a make-shift chemical weapon has amplified concerns about extremely hazardous chemicals like chlorine and chlorine dioxide.

Based on these concerns, the National Research Council recently identified safer technologies as the most desirable solution to address chemical plant security. The Council stated that the most effective way to prevent chemical releases is to eliminate the hazards where possible.

“Today’s report demonstrates that safer technologies are a reality,” said Ashwell. “Some facilities have already reduced chemical hazards by switching to safer technologies, but many others are continuing with business as usual. To truly make our communities safe, chemical facilities must adopt safer technologies.”

Last summer, the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee passed a chemical security bill that incorporated safer technologies, but this bill was never brought to the House floor for a vote. Comparable legislation will likely be introduced again this year.
“We call on Representative Boyd to ensure that safer technologies are a part of any serious chemical security proposal.”