Environmental group cites pollution-IQ connection

Lowered IQ due to mercury pollution from mercury-cell chlorine factories costs the American economy $3.8 million in lost wages annually, according to an environmental group’s analysis that attempts to place a dollar value on the costs of certain types of pollution.

Oceana, based in Washington, D.C., has lobbied extensively in efforts to compel four remaining chlorine factories in the U.S. that use mercury-cell technology to convert to a mercury free manufacturing process.

The four plants that still use mercury technology include Olin Corporation facilities in Augusta and Tennessee; a PPG Industries facility in Natrium, WV; and an Ashta Chemicals facility in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Oceana claimed those four plants released more than 2,000 pounds of mercury into the air in 2006, resulting in an estimated loss of $3.8 million in economic productivity.

Olin’s Augusta plant, in its federally required Toxic Release Inventory disclosure to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, reported releasing 137.85 pounds in 2007, down almost 85 percent from the 834.5 pounds the plant released in 2005.

Tonya Bonitatibus, Oceana’s field representative in Augusta, said the study, entitled, Hidden Costs: Reduced IQ from Chlor-Alkali Plants Harms the Economy, underscores the dangers of eating fish with high levels of mercury.

“The fish found in the Savannah River have continually been shown to have elevated mercury levels, and with Olin chemical, located on the banks of river, continually adding 600+ lbs of mercury into the air and water a year, the mercury levels will only continue to rise.”

Olin officials have said in response to past criticisms from Oceana that there are no plans to convert the plant to newer technology, which would cost as much as $90 million. The company remains in compliance with its state and federal environmental and operating permits.

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