The Dire Effects Of A Chlorine Ban

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THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION HAS PROPOSED CHANGES TO the Clean Water Act which could ban the industrial use of chlorine and chlorine compounds. Such a sweeping proposal is without foundation, given the relative contribution of man-made chlorine compounds compared with natural sources in the environment and the importance of chlorine in so many manufacturing processes. Chlorine is used for water treatment and in the manufacture of paper, plastics, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. If chlorine and chlorinated chemicals are banned, the consequences for many industries will be dire. To use just one example, let's consider the importance of chlorine in the production the very medicines that keep us healthy.

What will happen to vancomycin and the numerous other pharmaceuticals that contain chlorine? Vancomycin is the only antibiotic currently effective against hospital staph infections. Of the nearly 400 new drugs approved for therapeutic use in humans since 1984, more than 60 contain chlorine. Two of the ten most prescribed pharmaceuticals, Ceclor and Xanax, contain chlorine. What are the substitutes for Claritin, Ultravate, Elocon, Mepron, Almide, Wellbutrin, Femstat, Lopidine, Selepam, Melex, Bonefos, Aclovate, Fareston, Proendotel, Propulsid, Halfan and Sporanox -- all of which contain chlorine? These specific organochlorine pharmaceuticals are used to treat millions of Americans annually for depression, arthritis, fungal diseases, glaucoma, inflammation, psoriasis, allergies, infections, osteoporosis, ulcers, malaria, coronary disease and cancer. What will happen to the millions of American children who develop severe middle ear infections and are now best treated with the chlorine-containing antibiotics Ceclor and Lorabid if these drugs are banned?

And what about the development of new pharmaceuticals? Numerous recently discovered organochlorine compounds -- natural and synthetic -- have potent antibacterial, anticancer and other important medicinal properties. For example, the newly discovered anticancer marine sponge metabolite spongistatin contains chlorine; as does DDD (Mitotane), a DDT derivative used to treat inoperable adrenal cancer; cisplatin, the miracle testicular cancer drug; and the anesthetic Halothane. An Oregon forest moss produces the chlorine-containing ansamitocin, which has potent anticancer activity against solid tumors, as does rebeccamycin, which contains two atoms of chlorine, discovered in a Panamanian soil microbe. Ambigol, a chlorinated PCB from a terrestrial blue-green alga, is active against HIV reverse transcriptase.

American Council on Science and Health, Inc.

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By Gordon W. Gribble

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