CHLORINE BAN PROPOSAL TO SPARK SHOWDOWN AT CANADA MEETING

CHLORINE BAN PROPOSAL TO SPARK SHOWDOWN AT CANADA MEETING

Chemical companies and environmentalists meet Thursday in a showdown over a proposal that the Canadian and United States governments order a gradual end to the production of chlorinated organic chemicals.

Environmental groups are ecstatic with the recommendation from the International Joint Commission but the chemical industry says a ban could cost thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in Canada and the United States.The forum for the debate is the biennial meeting of the commission, an independent agency that gives advice to both governments on the environmental management of the Great Lakes.

The commission sparked a hot debate when it made the chlorine recommendation in its last report. The commission's suggestions are non- binding but influential.

The fact that Greenpeace has lobbied for the chlorine ban means "it is not going to be easy" to fight, says Brad Lienhart of the Chemical Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.

Greenpeace spokesman Jay Palter of Toronto says the chemical industry is trying to "exploit people's fears" about losing jobs.

Studies have linked chlorinated chemicals with a number of health problems in humans and animals, including cancers. Chlorine has thousands of uses, including water treatment, plastic manufacturing and bleaching pulp and paper.

Chemical manufacturers say chlorine is used in about 60 percent of the chemical industry worldwide and accounts for 84,000 jobs and $8.5 billion annually to the Canadian economy. In the United States, the figures rise to 1.3 million jobs and $70 billion to the economy.