Published: May 7, 2008

Science, Chemistry, Risks and Environmental Safety

Published: May 7, 2008

May 7, 2008; Page A18

If he had not referred to me directly in his letter (“Make America’s Chemical Policy More Like Europe’s1,” April 28), I would never have guessed that Rick Hind of Greenpeace was responding to my op-ed “Why I Left Greenpeace” (April 22).

Mr. Hind implies that I am arguing against the phase-out of persistent toxic chemicals that contain chlorine. I said no such thing. My article was in defense of phthalates, a group of chemicals used to soften plastics. Phthalates are not toxic, are not persistent and do not contain chlorine. They are composed entirely of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

I am not opposed to the phase-out of the 12 chlorinated compounds identified in the Stockholm Convention, nicknamed the “Dirty Dozen.” It should be noted, however, that DDT is among those compounds, and that the World Health Organization and USAID have reinstated the use of DDT for malaria control. This was only accomplished after Bishop Desmond Tutu, along with thousands of scientists and humanitarians, campaigned for this exception. It was Greenpeace and its allies that fought for a “zero-tolerance” ban on DDT, despite that fact that DDT will save millions of lives.

As for the use of chlorine itself, Mr. Hind repeats the Greenpeace position that it should be banned without addressing the fact that adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, and that the majority of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry.

Greenpeace should abandon its black-and-white approach to chemicals and adopt a policy that balances the benefits of particular elements and compounds with the risks.

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