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Published on Dec 8, 2016
Chlorine is an element that is widely used in industry and can be found in some household products. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it is one of the most commonly manufactured chemicals in the United States.
It is used in the production of thousands of products. Chlorine is also used in drinking water and swimming pool water to kill harmful bacteria and is used as part of the sanitation process for industrial waste and sewage.
The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) states that chlorine is very unstable and reacts with a variety of chemicals and water when it is released into the environment. It is broken down by sunlight quickly and when dissolved in water, it is converted into chloride and hypochlorous acid.
If chlorine is spilled or if it is released from a tank into the air, it will evaporate quickly forming a greenish-yellow cloud that is heavier than air and can be carried by the wind. Chlorine gas that comes into contact with moist tissues, such as the eyes, throat and lungs, will produce an acid that can cause damage. Exposure to low levels of chlorine gas can result in nose, throat and eye irritation. At higher levels, breathing chlorine gas may result in changes in breathing rate and coughing, and damage to the lungs. During World War I, it was even used as a choking agent.
At home, people can be exposed to chlorine gas if they mix household cleaners containing ammonia with bleach or through the improper use of swimming pool chemicals. The CDC reports that during or immediately after exposure to dangerous concentrations of chlorine, the following signs and symptoms may develop: • Blurred vision • Burning pain, redness and blisters on the skin if exposed to gas. Skin injuries similar to frostbite can occur if it is exposed to liquid chlorine • Burning sensation in the nose, throat and eyes • Coughing • Chest tightness, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath • Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) • Nausea and vomiting • Watery eyes • Wheezing
These are just a few things to know about chlorine and exposure concerns. To learn more about this or other air quality, environmental, health, safety or occupational issues, please visit the websites shown below.