CHLORINE, PVC AND DIOXINS
Dioxins are the most toxic chemicals, made by mankind as an unwanted byproduct of some chemical reactions and as a general byproduct of any form of incineration, mainly in low quantities. Of course, one should minimise the release to neglectable lows, but 'Zero Dioxin', zero=zero, like Greenpeace expresses in their report is nonsense. If you really mean zero, then you have to stop all heating with fossil fuels, stop all traffic, stop all factories, whether they use chlorine or not, because they all give very small quantities of dioxins and other unpretty trace chemicals in air, water or land. And last but not least, you have to stop nature, because nature itself produces dioxins by natural fires and the biodegradation of wood...
In a few accidents, relatively large quantities of dioxins were released, from which we can learn how dangerous dioxins are in short and long term. The most remembered is the Seveso accident, where an overheated reactor emitted a cloud of reaction products, including a few hundred grams to a few kilogram of the most toxic dioxin in the neighbourhood.
See: How dangerous are dioxins?
Greenpeace and other environmental groups accuses the chlorine industry to be the main source of dioxins in the environment. In some specific cases in the past, this was true, but the whole chlorine industry and specifically the PVC-industry is only a minor source of dioxins today. In Western countries (measurements in Belgium, The Netherlands, Sweden, UK, Canada and the USA) this is only 0.1% of the dioxin releases to air. The most important sources still are old incinerators, the domestic incineration of wood and the metal industry. And the amount of PVC - or chlorine - input plays no role in the amount of dioxins formed at incinerators. Only the quality of incineration matters.
See: Sources of dioxins.
Greenpeace and other environmental groups want a ban on all PVC use, because it gives dioxins when produced and incinerated. This is true for very small quantities, but they "forget" to mention that it is true for any material production which uses any form of heating or thermal processing. Any material that is recycled at high temperatures forms dioxins and any material which can burn will release dioxins - and much more important PAH's - when accidentaly burned or incinerated, the former completely depending on the circumstances and the latter completely depending on the quality of the incinerator.
See: Dioxin releases of materials during their life cycle.
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Created: Februari 26, 1996.
Last update: March 14, 1998.
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