Chlorine risk, safety, danger by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
April 4 2015


Chlorine is a greenish yellow gas which combines directly with nearly all elements. Chlorine is found largely in seawater where it exists as sodium chloride. It is recovered as a reactive, corrosive, pale green chlorine gas from brine (a solution of sodium chloride in water) by electrolysis.
   Chlorine reacts with substances such as urine and sweat to create byproducts that can irritate the respiratory tract, most importantly chloramines.


Swimming pool chlorine, wash your body after swimming

Children who live in regions with more indoor swimming pools are more likely to have asthma. There is the "pool chlorine hypothesis," which proposes that exposure to chlorine chemical and its byproducts may play at least some role in the development of the disease. Chlorine is a respiratory irritant. The gas irritates the mucous membranes and the liquid burns the skin. Chlorine exposure causes functional and pathological changes in the airways associated with oxidative stress.
   Some athletes tend to have respiratory problems such as asthma, and exposure to chlorinated compounds may increase the respiratory disease among swimmers.
   Swimming teachers and other people who spend a lot of time near chlorinated pools face an increased risk of breathing problems.


My experience, chlorine can damage lung tissue
I never realized how chlorine can harm lung tissue until one winter I had a cold that affected my lungs a little and I had a mild cough for a week or two after the other symptoms of the common cold, such as nose stuffiness and sore throat, went away. I remember during that time that whenever I walked by a chlorinated pool, I could feel my lung tissue getting irritated and my cough would return.


Chlorine and lung damage, risk and safety

Chlorine inhalation can cause several types of lung damage, depending on the extent of exposure, ranging from irritation of the mucous membranes to accumulation of fluid in the lungs that can cause respiratory failure.
     Children who were accidentally exposed to chlorine at a swimming pool experienced substantial impairment of lung function that was still apparent to some degree months later. Dr. Eugenio Baraldi, of the University of Padua, Italy, and colleagues examined the lung function and potential long-term damage soon after chlorine exposure and over the next 15 months in 10 previously healthy children. The children were in a group of 18 participating in a swimming lesson. Because of a mistake that occurred when the pool was serviced, too much chlorine was added to the water, the water turned yellow and the children became ill. Ten children were hospitalized, and four of them were placed in the pediatric intensive care unit. Immediately after exposure all of the patients had respiratory distress and reduced lung function of about 50 percent. One child needed mechanical ventilation. The patients also had low levels of exhaled air and high levels of biologic markers of inflammation. Measures of lung function returned to normal within 15 days after chlorine exposure. Levels of exhaled air were normal after 2 months, but markers of lung inflammation remained high for several months. The children took an exercise challenge test 8 months after the accident, and no exercise-induced asthma occurred. None of the children experienced a significant drop in measures of lung function. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, September 2006.


Chlorine tablet

A chlorine tablet is often used as a disinfectant in swimming pools.

Chlorine dioxide

Chlorine dioxide is a reddish-yellow gas which is one of several known oxides of chlorine. Chlorine dioxide is relatively stable in the gas and liquid states, but can explode. Practically, it is never handled in its pure form. The growth of indoor molds and their resulting products (e.g., spores and mycotoxins) can present health hazards for human beings. Chlorine dioxide gas can be effective to a degree as a fumigant for the inactivation of certain fungal colonies.


Q. My husband is exhibiting many signs of lupus including cold hands/feet and tingling/numbness of same, flares of cold sores in mouth, flares of discoids on face area in summer months when he is outside a lot, extreme joint pain (preceded by swelling and fluid in the joints, now subsided) in elbows, wrists, thumbs, knees, ankles and feet, difficulty in going to bathroom (is on Flo-Max) -the most obvious of his symptoms. Have heard about chlorine dioxide as a possible treatment. Can you tell me anything about this?
   A. I am not familiar with chlorine dioxide as a treatment for lupus or other conditions.


Chlorine Gas danger

Chlorine gas exposure is uncommon in children and when it occurs usually results in mild ocular, oropharyngeal, or respiratory symptoms. Occasionally, however, chlorine gas poisoning may cause severe pulmonary toxicity.

Chlorine allergy
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