Averting Toxic Disasters in China
Elizabeth Grossman, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Joseph Amon, Human Rights Watch
Arlene Blum, Green Science Policy Institute/University of California
David Lennett, Natural Resources Defense Council
Over the past several years, the Chinese news media has been more active in reporting on lead poisoning cases and cadmium contamination in food. Overall, however, the magnitude of China's toxic pollution problems is not very well understood, which hinders the search for solutions. For example, China uses and releases more mercury than any other country in the world. China's most significant use of mercury is unique as a catalyst for the manufacturing of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic from coal and unless changes are made in the industry, mercury use in the PVC sector, which accounted for an estimated 1,000 tons of mercury consumed in China in 2010, is projected to expand. Speakers at this June 23rd CEF meeting will talk about the growing problems and policy gaps related to controlling mercury and other chemical wastes in Chinese industries.
Elizabeth Grossman will open up the meeting by giving an overview of the problem and highlight a few potential solutions for addressing environmental health problems posed by persistent and pervasive hazardous substances used widely in consumer products and manufacturing processes. Because much of the world's chemical-intensive manufacturing takes place in China (which has also become a destination for large quantities of hazardous chemical laden waste), Elizabeth will also discuss how China's experience has been instrumental in bringing these issues to light.
Next Joseph Amon will talk about the new Human Rights Watch report—My Children Have Been Poisoned—that examines lead poisoning in China. In China today hundreds of thousands of children suffer from permanent mental and physical disabilities as a result of lead poisoning.
Arlene Blum will discuss how halogenated flame retardants—chemicals used in furniture, baby products, and carpets—that are produced in China pose a threat to Chinese factory workers and consumers around the world. In addition to being hazardous during production and use, these chemicals often return to China at the end of their life in e-waste disposal regions, where the air, soil, and water as well humans and animals contain some of the highest levels of toxic flame retardants and their combustion products in the world.
David Lennett will close out the discussion on how NRDC has been working with the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection's Chemical Registration Center to develop improved estimates of China's mercury supply and demand and assist Chinese policymakers to identify safer alternatives to mercury in PVC manufacturing, which is the largest legal use in China.
Location: 5th Floor Conference Room