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CHLORINE IN THE WORLD

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CHLORINE IN NATURE

Chlorine is quit abundant in nature, there is more chlorine (0.19%) in the earth crust than carbon (0.08%). Almost all of that chlorine is in bounded form: salt in the oceans and in thick layers all around the world contains sixty percent of chlorine, the rest is sodium. Huge amounts - but small concentrations - of bounded chlorine (salt and hydrochloric acid) are travelling with the winds from sea to land. So also on land you will find chlorine everywhere in air and ground. Small parts of the hydrochloric acid are oxidised to elementary chlorine, which gives the nice looking green roofs with copper on buildings near the sea.

All life on earth started in salted oceans and still nearly all life on earth needs salt to survive. Too much salt is a deadly poison, not enough salt is deadly too. Our blood contains salt, our stomach uses hydrochloric acid - derived from salt - for the digestion of our food. And when we are attacked by bacteria, white blood cells produce a powerful chlorinating and oxidising agent from salt: hypochlorite to kill the invaders.


NATURAL ORGANOCHLORINES

Most environmental groups deny or underestimate the amount of organochlorines made by nature: until now, about 1700 organochlorines are found in or made by different species. Also dioxins, PCB's and other stuff that according to them should be banned from our earth, form as a result of natural wood fires. Sometimes the quantities are quite high. The breakdown of wood by fungi and mushrooms uses organochlorines, which results in an amount of chlorinated residues, mainly chlorophenols. The concentration of organochlorines in the ground in woods is therefore seven times higher than what is allowed by legislation in The Netherlands!

From chlorophenols to dioxins is only a small step in nature: lots of bacteria do make hydrogen peroxide, which can do the job. The average amount of dioxins in ground of woods is higher than that found in industrial or highly urbanised areas - except for some hot spots - and is much higher than the levels found in open fields and grassland.

There is a lot of resistance to waste incinerators. In fact, the worst of them give in the exhaust about the same amount of dioxins as what was in the input, although this will be concentrated on the nearby surroundings. A well equipped incinerator, at the contrary, reduces the amount of dioxin a hundred to a thousandfold.
On the other hand, biological composting of organic garbage or sludge, triples the amount of dioxins... In paper and cardboard, the amount of dioxins augments during their lifetime, even when these were made from 100% chlorine free manufactured pulp. In this way, recycled paper contains tens to hundreds times more dioxins than fresh paper.


CHLORINE IN INDUSTRY

About 60% of all chemical activities uses chlorine in either a direct or indirect way. This is not by accident, but this is because, in many cases, chlorine acts as an energy pump. It is a very reactive element, making reactions possible, which otherwise should use more energy, more unrenewable resources, give more (dangerous) waste, more pollution, would be more unsafe for workers and/or users and give a lower quality for a higher price.

Chlorine is used to make more than 10,000 products, you can say that about 95% of all what you have as consumer products is in some way made with chlorine. To give you an impression where it is used:

THE USE OF CHLORINE

Medicines
Over 80% of all medicine and synthetic vitamins are made by chlorine and in 30% of the medicine, chlorine is an indispensable part of it.
Disinfectants
Chlorine is used as a cheap, reliable disinfectant in swimming pools and in drinking water, especially in the third world.
Plastics
Chlorine is used to make versatile plastics like PVC (with a lot of uses like bloodbags, cable insulation, creditcards, leather imitation, pipes for water and gas, windowframes, packaging for food and pharmaceuticals, impermeable linings for deposits, basements and tunnels) and PVDC, used for special packaging.
Catalists
Chlorine is used to make catalysts for the production of high density and linear low density polyethylene (HDPE, LLDPE) and polypropylene (PP).
Intermediate(s)
Chlorine is an intermediate in the processes to make polyurethane's (PU for mattresses), polycarbonate (PC for CD's, aeroplane windows and many temperature resistant kitchen utensils), carboxymethylcellulose (CMC used as absorbent in napkins), epoxy (paints and glues), silicones (highly resistant sealants, rubbers, lubricants), Teflon (bakery),...
Solvents
Chlorine is used in non-flammable solvents for degreasing and dry-cleaning.
Bleaching
Chlorine is/was used in the bleaching of pulp for the paper industry and cotton.
Metallurgy
Chlorine is used in metallurgy to make titan (rockets), aluminium, magnesium, nickel (stainless steel) and last but not least silicon in very pure form used to make the electronic chips, which makes the Internet work!

Those who want to have chlorine out of industry either don't know the consequences of what they are saying, or they know it and their aim is to go farther than the use of chlorine: those people want all (chemical) factories closed, whether that is good for nature and/or mankind or not.

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THE CHLORINE ALTERNATIVES

In many cases, chlorine and chlorinated products can be replaced by chlorine-free processes or chlorine-free products, sometimes this can be beneficial for the environment, but in many cases, especially for PVC, where a lot of investigations were done, known and controlled dangers are exchanged for (un)known dangers, which can have a much higher impact on man and nature.


CONCLUSION

Chlorine-free or PVC-free are not synonyms for better for the environment!

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You are at level one of the Chlorophiles pages.

Created: March 10, 1996.
Last update: May 2, 1998.

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