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MIT conference to address uses, impact of chlorine

An MIT conference today and tomorrow, June 12-13, will address the future uses of chlorine, which is among the most pervasive of all chemicals and a major source of accumulated manmade toxins in the ecosphere.

Speakers, including Nobel laureate Mario Molina of MIT and Barbara Dudley, executive director of Greenpeace, represent a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds. They will present their work on issues in chlorine policy, technology and science.

The goal of the conference is to offer participants opportunities to learn from -- and to educate -- decision makers who will be formulating and implementing future chlorine policy.

Chlorinated compounds can be found in thousands of chemical products in circulation today. They are used in the production of plastics (PVC) and pesticides, drinking water purification, paper bleaching, dry-cleaning and other cleaning operations, and pharmaceuticals.

These compounds may contribute to up to 20 percent of the greenhouse effect. In addition, emerging evidence suggests that chlorinated compounds may mimic the characteristics of hormones, such as estrogen, in animals. The effects of estrogen-mimicking chemicals may range from increased incidence of breast cancer to offspring that are more susceptible to developmental defects such as the masculinization of females and the feminization of males.

In the past five years, numerous groups from industry, government and environmental advocates have formed to explore the health and environmental issues associated with chlorine use. Some have issued calls to phase out chlorinated organic compounds, while others have called for further study.

The format of the conference will include plenary sessions, intensive half-day workshops and informal discussions. Plenary sessions will address:

  • ������������������The toxicology of organochlorines
  • Public concerns about current and future uses of chlorine
  • How industry is responding-and leading
  • The use of science in environmental policy-making
  • Strategies for education, outreach and stakeholder participation

Concurrent workshops will explore themes outlined by the plenary speakers. Workshops will be led by senior scholars and will feature papers from graduate students, faculty members and researchers from industry and environmental groups. The conference is free to members of the MIT community. A complete agenda is available at la Sala de Puerto Rico.

In addition, this evening (June 12) attendees can participate in a game that simulates environmental treaty talks. The Global Management of Organochlorine was developed by MIT Professor Lawrence Susskind.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 12, 1996.

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