Experts debate benefits, dangers of chlorine in C&EN point-counterpoint

October 18, 2004

Get a group of scientists together and mention the word "chlorine" and watch the sparks start to fly. That's exactly what happened at a forum on a different, but related, topic of sustainability, sponsored by the news magazine Chemical & Engineering News, a publication of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

As a result of a "vigorous and provocative debate" about chlorine at that forum, the magazine's editors asked two leading experts in the field of chlorine chemistry - Terrence Collins, professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and C.T. (Kip) Howlett Jr., executive director of the Chlorine Chemistry Council and vice president of the American Chemistry Council - each representing opposing viewpoints, to participate in a special "point-counterpoint" exchange, which appears in the magazine's Oct. 18 issue.

Collins charges that the dangers of chlorine are not being adequately addressed by industry or academe. He says alternatives to chlorine and chlorine processes must be pursued. Howlett contends that industry is, in fact, succeeding in lessening the impact of chlorine on the environment. He cites numerous positive contributions that chlorine has made to society.

Some highlights of the exchange:

Despite the long-standing and passionate controversy over chlorine, Collins and Howlett managed to agree on at least one thing: disinfection of drinking water supplies with chlorine has been a lifesaver for people around the world. According to Collins, "... water disinfection with chlorine probably holds the record for saving human lives ..." Howlett's response, "I agree."

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

C&EN Online (www.cen-online.org) is the daily news source of the American Chemical Society. The Web site has online exclusives and is updated regularly to inform readers about the latest developments in the chemical world.
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American Chemical Society

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