PHIL

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CHLORINE AND GREENPEACE

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FAIRY-TALE

God created 91 chemical elements, man more than a thousand and the devil created one: chlorine.

Greenpeace magazine (Belgium), August 1992.

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FACTS AND FIGURES

The Holy Bible

Apart from the scientific value of the above declaration, Greenpeace didn't read The Holy Bible carefully. The Bible clearly links the devil to fire and sulphur! On the other hand, the New Testimony states that Christians are the salt of the earth and - maybe you know - salt is composed for 60% of chlorine...


Parts of this page

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The target and the means

One of the main targets of Greenpeace is that all industrial chlorine activities should be stopped at the year 2000. To reach that target, all means are good. Exaggerating non-problems to so called 'ecological disasters' by producing or suggesting figures which are more than a thenthousandfold higher than the real measurements, miscalculations, accusing factories of severe pollution, while the real location of the named factory is 400 km downstreams of the point of pollution, taking words and phrases out of their context, omitting essential phrases of original works in their copies, suggesting that the existence of by-products of industry - like dioxin - is the same as emitting them. Projecting the negative properties of a few chlorinated chemicals on all the more than 10,000 uses of chlorine. And even worse they forget to mention the enormous evidence, one can find in scientific literature which proofs the contrary of what they are telling. For an environmental group, they like to promote alternatives which are 'chlorine-free', even if these are worse for environment and/or more dangerous for the users. Last but not least, for a self-defined non-violent organisation, they use a lot of violence, by attacking factories and transports and blackmailing intermediate users of chlorine and chlorinated compounds.
Are we against Greenpeace? In fact no. But Greenpeace should use sound science and real arguments for real problems, not lies for non-problems.


The exaggeration

In one of their 'scientific' reports, 'PVC-factories = dioxinfactories', Greenpeace makes a double fault.
First they 'translated' a laboratory investigation, where 1.5 gram of a PVC-intermediate was made, to the amount of dioxin which would be produced by the production of 100.000 tons of PVC. According to them, more than 400 g of dioxin would be produced for every 100.000 tons of PVC.
Secondly Greenpeace suggests that all dioxin produced, would be released in the environment. If this was true, of course that would be an ecological and health disaster for the neighbours of such factories. But they 'forgot' that the laboratory had a yield of only 12%, while a well equiped PVC factory has yields of over 97%. So this was clearly not comparable.

Alarmed by the publication of the above mentioned laboratory experiment, the EDC-VCM-PVC-factory of Rovin in The Netherlands, asked the researchers of the University of Amsterdam, where the experiment was done, to check the amounts of dioxin formed and released at their factory.
This was done and the results were: on a production of about 500,000 tons per year, about 4 g of dioxin were formed. That is already 500 times lower than what Greenpeace suggests. Of that amount, after cleanup in a biological wastewatertreatment and the incineration of the sludge of the watertreatment, the production wastes and the off-gases, only about 40 milligram of dioxines are released to air and about 10 milligram are released to water per year. That is 10,000 times less than what Greenpeace suggests and no ecological disaster, not even a problem.
To make a comparation: other research revealed that each motorship on the North Sea (including these from Greenpeace!) releases 30 to 80 milligram of dioxin per year, as much (or less) as a factory where hundredthousands tons of PVC are made! See also Sources of dioxins.

If one presumes an environmental problem and doesn't know the real amounts, one can ask for an investigation. In obvious cases one can extrapolate laboratory experiments to real-life circumstances. But in this case, years before they released their report, Greenpeace did know the real facts. So their suggesting story and figures are a clear falsification of the reality.

Not the first time...

It is not the first time that Greenpeace was completely wrong with their messages. In May 1990, they spread the "fact" that they had found enormous levels of dioxin outside the pesticide factory of Nufarm in Melbourne, Australia, "100 million times greater than USA EPA standards". On ground of this message, the firm was closed for three months, pending the investigation.
The investigation costed the state of Victoria A$ 1.5 million and the firm A$ 6 million. The results, some traces of dioxins in the parts per billion ranges, were commented by Prof. Dr. Ian Ray, as independent researcher: "The deductions that this was a danger to the health of the people of Melbourne, I think that was an exaggeration. I think there Greenpeace didn't have the facts" [20]. In fact they were a factor up to one million wrong...
Greenpeace, questioned about this matters, which they had called "the worst environmental disaster of the world, worse than Seveso" replied: "We didn't describe it as that. We said it may be one of the world's catastrophes". And they added: "Nothing Greenpeace has ever said has been proven, as far as I know, to be incorrect".

No further comment...


The miscalculations

In another report, 'Zero Dioxin', Greenpeace calculates the 'release' of dioxin from all American PVC-producers, from the publiced figures of a Norwegian producer.
The calculations were made on basis of real emissions of dioxin to air and water and on the base of the amount of dioxin found in internal streams and the liquid waste of by-products. The former is in fact nonsense: internal streams do not come in the environment, so that amount of dioxin doesn't come in the environment. Greenpeace deliberately confuses between existence and emission of dioxin.
The latter is even more doubtful: Greenpeace calculates the amount of dioxin on the base that there is as much waste as production! In fact only 2.5% of waste is formed, so they miscalculated again deliberately with a factor of 40. But it is even worse, all that waste is incinerated in well-equipped incinerators, where all these dioxins are destructed with a 99.9% yield. Greenpeace was again several thousand times wrong with their calculations...

Everybody can make mistakes, but when all mistakes are in the same direction, that is no mistake anymore but deliberate manipulation.


The displacement

In the report, 'PVC-factories = dioxinfactories', Greenpeace 'proves' that a PVC-factory was the cause of a pollution with dioxin of the River Rhine at km 665. Because this was 10 km south of Cologne in Germany and the named factory was in Rotterdam at km 1015 in The Netherlands, this was impossible. After some more investigation, the contamination is probably of the past, from a factory making chlorinated phenols, which has nothing to do with PVC and which was already closed for more than ten years.
On the other hand, an investigation of the sludge of the river Rhine revealed that the contamination with dioxin was at its maximum in the seventies. Nowadays the dioxin-levels are about the same as in 1945, near zero, despite the fact that chlorine- and PVC-production is now enormously higher than in that times.
Greenpeace never apologised for the clearly wrong accusation of the PVC-factory.


The omitting of relevant information

In Germany, there was an investigation on the behaviour of PVC in waste deposits. The report gives a lot of possible ways of leaching substances from rigid and flexible PVC, without any figure, so no one can calculate the effect of those 'possible' leachouts. Although the scientific relevance of this investigation is doubtful, the last alinea is interesting: the author says that in regular deposits there is no harmful effect of the deposit of PVC to be expected! This alinea is omitted in copies, widespread by Greenpeace!

According to the Greenpeace leaflet (in Dutch) 'Chlorine is everywhere', the Parish Convention decided to ban all chlorinated 'stuff'. Greenpeace omitted three essential conditions of what the Environmental Ministers of the North Sea countries decided: The Ministers wanted a ban of all persistentand toxic and bio-accumulating materials, wether they contain chlorine or not.
Of course, it is quite obvious to reduce the release of this kind of materials in the environment to near zero or - if possible - zero. The toxic, persistent, bio-accumulating chlorinated materials however are only a subset of a few hundred (by)products, compared with the more than 1,500 natural and the more than 10,000 industrial chlorinated materials. See also Chlorine and bio-accumulation (not yet ready).


Projecting negative properties of a Few to All

Greenpeace projects the negative properties of a few chlorinated chemicals like DDT, PCB's and CFK's, which are already banned or being banned for that reason, on all - more than 10,000 - chlorine uses. This is scientifical nonsense. For instance, what has PVC to do with DDT, PCB's, CFK's and the possible consequences like bio-accumulation, toxicity, cancer and ozone destruction? Nothing, except that it contains chlorine. For Greenpeace reason enough to launch a worldwide action against PVC. In fact it is as stupid as asking for the closing of all nylon factories (which contains nitrogen), because some farmers use too much fertilisers (which also contains nitrogen), which causes overnutrification, one of the real problems in surface waters today and well water tomorrow.


The omitting of scientific evidence

Greenpeace accuses the presence of PVC in municipal waste to be the origin of dioxin when incinerated. The reasoning is simple: PVC delivers half the chlorine in municipal waste, thus PVC is responsible for half the amount of dioxin leaving the incinerator. They even give an example of a test at a municipal waste incinerator in Denmark (with doubtful circumstances), where they found a relation between the amount of PVC and the amount of dioxin.
Greenpeace 'forgets' to mention an enormous amount of more than seventy experiments at municipal incinerators, all over the world, where it becomes clear that there is no relation between chlorine (and PVC) input and dioxin output. There were even more experiments which gave the opposite result: more PVC at the input gives less dioxin at the output! They also 'forget' to mention experiments at an incinerator which did give, with the same feed, a difference up to a hundredfold in dioxin-release, just by changing the circumstances... So the chlorine- or PVC-content of the 'fuel' is not important, the quality of the incineration is crucial for dioxin-releases. See also Chlorine and incinerators.


The alternatives

Greenpeace mentions a lot of alternatives for chlorine and chlorine use in processes or materials, especially for PVC. However they don't give any prove that these are better for the environment, only that they are chlorine-free. In fact, some of these alternatives are proven to be more dangerous for man and/or environment.
For instance for the desinfecting of swimming pools, they prefer the use of ozone, instead of chlorine. Ozone is in fact 60 times more toxic than chlorine and is, contrary to chlorine, now recognised as a human carcinogen by the German 'Deutsche Forschungsgeselschaft', the institute which makes the rules for toxic and carcinogenic substances at working places in Germany. The carcinogenic potency is estimated to be about 120 times higher than for benzene, a known human carcinogen in petrol. See also Chlorine and toxicity and Chlorine and cancer.

In a 1996 UK brochure [14], Greenpeace promotes the use of cast iron and stainless steel pipes instead of PVC pipes. According to an investigation of gas distribution systems in The Netherlands, iron pipes are up to 20 times more polluting than PVC on several environmental items! So for Greenpeace, their anti-PVC fundamentalism is stronger than what you should expect from an environmental group...


The (non)violence

Greenpeace preaches to be non-violent. But what we see are the many cases of violently attacking chlorine- and PVC-factories and blocking transports and doing actual damage.
In Belgium and The Netherlands alone they lost next lawsuits:

Not stopping their action at Solvay Antwerp: fine $ 230,000.
For every blocking of the activities of Akzo Nobel Chemicals in Rotterdam: a fine of $ 30,000 per case and $ 60,000 per day.
The personal conviction of the Greenpeace-campaigner against chlorine in Belgium for one month prison on probation and a fine of $ 6,000 for damage at the Tessenderlo Chemicals factory.
The paying of all costs of blocking a chlorine train at Linne-Herten in The Netherlands.
The last verdict is quit interesting. The judge based his decision on the fact that Greenpeace had not even tried to use any legal way to protest or to give their objections, while other environmental groups did, nor did they have any discussion with the management of the factory, before they blocked the train...

The worst violence is what they are doing with their attacks against the product PVC. Without any scientifically justified reason, they use PVC as a scapegoat for their fundamentalism. Persons are more or less protected by law against false insinuations and accusations. No law protects a product against false insinuations and accusations, nor is it possible to let them pay for the damage they have done in market shares and disemployment. That is power without responsability.


The blackmailing

Greenpeace misuses the position of consumergoods producers and resellers to blackmail them. With actions against PVC at different resellers, with the publication of 'black lists' of goods, still packaged in PVC, they create an atmosphere, which is difficult to withstand. In fact the resellers want to sell water, margarine, cheese, fish, meat, toys and other consumer goods, not the packaging. So if there is a possibility to loose some market share, because of this kind of negative publicity, they will change rapidly to other packaging materials. The consumer and the environment will pay the difference...
If there was a benefit for the environment of a change-over, there would be some legitimation for this kind of actions. But because a lot of sound scientific investigations proves the contrary (see Life Cycle Analyses of PVC and alternatives) this is in fact a form of ecological fanatism. In fact what is the difference between disemploying people, on the base of religion, sex or race, or disemploying them, not because the products they make are good or bad for the environment, but only because they contain chlorine...


Are we against Greenpeace?

Until a few years ago, we were admirers of Greenpeace, until we discovered that even if their targets are legitimated, in all cases they use lies, halftruths and exaggerations to reach their target. And in the case of chlorine and PVC, even the target is wrong.
By saying that Greenpeace uses lies, we are in good company: Paul Crutzen, recent Nobel Prize winner for his work on the ozone layer, has cancelled his membership of Greenpeace:

"They have cheated the case and I am angry about that, because that will come to our account. They use bad data, as well as for the Brent Spar as for the French nuclear tests. I am against nuclear tests, but one should use scientifical sound arguments... ...No, Greenpeace has harmed the environmental case."

The actions of environmental groups, including Greenpeace, of which many Chlorophiles are (in the case of Greenpeace: were) members, were necessary in the past to awake the managements of factories and the government, that pollution was going too far. But nowadays, most factories are polluting much less than traffic or agricultural or domestic activities.

Some environmental groups, like Bellona in the Nordic countries, have done actions at PVC-factories, but they didn't ask for the closing down, they worked out how to reduce the pollution to acceptable low amounts. This was followed by investments at the factories and now PVC is an accepted product for them. This is not the case for Greenpeace, they are against PVC, only because it contains chlorine, even if they lose a lot of credibility for themselves and, even worse, for the environmental ideas in general.
We think that environmental groups are still necessary to be a watchdog for factories and government to keep them aware of the consequences of what they are doing. But that must be groups that use sound science and valuable arguments, not this Greenpeace.

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Created: February 23, 1996.
Last update: July 16, 2000..

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