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Use Nationally and in Massachusetts

Widely used in industry, American businesses and wastewater treatment facilities consumed 13.360 million pounds of chlorine in 1995.2 The major end-uses for chlorine in the U.S. are organic and inorganic chemical production, and direct applications.

  • The major organic chemical end-use for chlorine is polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC and its intermediaries, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride monomer, accounted for 35% of national chlorine consumption in 1995. Production of chlorinated organics, including PVC and other hazardous chemicals like perchloroethylene, and trichloroethylene, accounted for 76% of national chlorine consumption in 1995.
  • Inorganic chemical production -- which includes titanium dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and sodium and calcium hypochlorites -- accounted for 13% of national chlorine consumption in 1995.
  • Direct applications -- such as bleached paper products, water treatment, and metals production -- consumed 11% of national chlorine consumption in 1995.

In Massachusetts, industrial facilities use chlorine to regenerate etchants used in the electronics industry, refine gold, manufacture chlorinated organic chemicals, and purify water.

  • Massachusetts' facilities used 627,000 pounds of chlorine in 1996 (see Table 1). The regeneration of etching solutions was the primary end-use for chorine; "etchant regeneration" accounted for over one-third of all Massachusetts chlorine use in 1996 (see Table 2). Etching solutions contain the inorganic chlorinated compounds ferric chloride and cupric chloride, and are used in the manufacture of electronic components. The second largest end-use for chlorine was gold refining, which accounted for 24% of Massachusetts chlorine use.
  • Chlorine use dropped dramatically, by over 50%, between 1990 and 1996 in Massachusetts. The primary cause of the decline: Zeneca, Inc., ceased using 866,000 pounds of chlorine due to cutbacks in production. Zeneca's dramatic reduction masked other increases in chlorine use.
  • Between 1990 and 1996, chlorine use increased in four use categories: etchant regeneration, gold refining,water purification, and chlorinated rubber production. These four use categories increased chlorine consumption by 116,000 pounds, for a 30% increase.

Table 1 includes two sources of "output" data: Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (MA TURA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data. The MA TURA database includes all non-product material created by a process line prior to release, on-site treatment, or transfer ("byproduct") and the amount of toxic chemical incorporated into a product ("shipped in or as product"). The U.S. EPA, TRI database includes information on the waste materials generated by a facility after on-site treatment: including releases to air, land, and water ("environmental releases") and transfers off-site for treatment or disposal ("off-site transfers").

  • MA TURA outputs declined by 70% between 1990 and 1996. The dramatic decline in MA TURA outputs resulted primarily from two facilities -- Merckens Chocolate and Solutia -- which ceased reporting chlorine use by 1996. Outputs are lower than inputs for chlorine because production and treatment processes transform chlorine into other chemicals.
  • EPA TRI releases and transfers dropped by 97% between 1990 and 1996. Merckens Chocolate and Solutia accounted for the majority of the decline.