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What is Chlorine?

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Chlorine is described as a yellow-green element that has been applied indifferent areas ranging from household products to industrial chemical applications since mid-1940s. Sometimes, Chlorine takes the form of a toxic gas that is easily noticeable due to its irritating pungent odor that smells like bleach. At normal pressure and room temperature, chlorine gas has a yellow-green color. It can be pressurized then cooled in liquid form for storage and shipping purposes. When liquid form of chlorine is released, it turns into gas rapidly. It remains near the ground and spreads fast. Chlorine is not flammable but it forms explosive compounds or reacts explosively with chemicals like ammonia and turpentine.

Discovery of Chlorine and its Chemical Composition

Chlorine was discovered by Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1774. At the time of discovery, Carl 

initially thought it had oxygen. The chemical was named Chlorine by Humphrey Davy in 1810. Humphrey insisted that the chemical was indeed an element. Pure chlorine is an element that has physical forms of a diatomic gas. The term chlorine comes from the word chloros that means green and refers to the color of chlorine gas. Chlorine element is part of a halogen series forming salts. It is derived from chlorides through electrolysis and oxidation. Chlorine gas combines easily with almost any element.

Chlorine gas is 2.5 times heavier than air and is extremely toxic. In its solid and liquid forms, chlorine is a powerful bleaching, disinfecting and bleaching agent. On the periodic table, chlorine is element number 17 sharing similar halogens with members such as fluorine, iodine, bromine and astatine. It dissolves in water to form a mixture of hydrochloric acids, hypochlorous and free chlorine. Chlorine grabs electrons from other elements to create new compounds in a process known as synthesizing. This property makes it a strong oxidizing agent. Chlorine easily combines easily with many organic compounds. It also combines with hydrogen and other metals to form chlorides.

Natural Occurrence

ccChlorine is the 21st most abundant chemical element in the Earth’s crust. However, it does not occur naturally in a pure state because it is highly reactive and tends to combine with other elements to form compounds. For this reason, it is very difficult to find free chlorine ions in nature. Chlorine is commonly found combined with sodium to form salt, it also occurs in sylvite and carnallite. Chloride constitutes much of the salt that is found dissolved in world oceans with an estimated 1.9% of sea water comprising chloride ions. Chloride is also found in soils with levels varying depending on the distance from the sea. The average amount of chloride in top soils is around 10ppm. Plants are known to contain varying levels of chlorine. Chlorine is a vital micronutrient for plants with concentrates occurring in the form of chloroplasts. If chlorine levels are below 2 ppm in the soil, crop growth is interfered with. Upper limits of chlorine levels vary from one crop to another. Though some of chlorine compounds are vital for life including for humans, this element is highly toxic in gaseous form.

Application of Chlorine

Chlorine is among the most manufactured chemicals in the U.S. The biggest chlorine users are companies involved in manufacturing ethylene dichloride and chlorinated solvents such as chlorofluorocarbons, polyvinylchloride resins and propylene oxide. Other heavy users are waste and water treatment plants and paper companies. This chemical element is mostly used for the following:

1. cc.jpgIndustrial Manufacturing

Chlorine is commonly used as a bleaching agent in manufacturing cloth and paper. It is also used to manufacture rubber, pesticides and solvents. Chlorine is a common industrial chemical that is used in the production of plastics, antiseptics, paints, dyestuffs, food, petroleum products, textiles, pharmaceuticals and many other consumer products.

2. Water Treatment

As a chemical element with disinfecting and purification properties, chlorine is commonly used to kill harmful microbes and bacteria in swimming pool water and drinking water. It is also used in the sanitization process of industrial sewage and waste.

3. Bleaching wood pulp

Chlorine is used to bleach wood pulp that is used to make paper. It is also used to remove ink from recycled paper.

4. Household Bleaching

Chlorine is also used as a household bleaching agent. When mixed with other cleaning agents in homes, household chlorine can produce chlorine gas.

5. War as a Choking Agent

During World War I, chlorine was used as a choking agent.

6. Hydrogen Substitute

Chlorine often displays numerous desired properties in organic compounds when substituted for synthetic rubber or hydrogen. It is widely applied in organic chemistry to produce chloroform, chlorates, and carbon tetrachloride. Chlorine is also used in bromine extraction.

Human Exposure to Chlorine

The risk of chlorine exposure depends on how close a person is to areas where chlorine is released. Where chlorine gas is let lose into the air, people get exposed to chlorine through eye or skin contact. Expose can also happen through inhaling air that contains chlorine. Where chlorine liquid is released into water, people get exposed through ingesting the water or coming into physical contact with the water. Where chlorine liquid gets into contact with food, then people are exposed through ingesting the contaminated food. ccThe level of chlorine poisoning also depends on the quantity of chlorine that a person is exposed to, the duration of exposure and how the exposure happened. When chlorine in its gas form comes into contact with moist tissues around the throat, lungs or eyes, it produces an acid that damages the tissues.

Effects of Chlorine on People’s Health

Chlorine exposure happens in workplaces or in environments where this chemical element is released into water, land or air. Chlorine does not stay in the body due to it reactivity nature but its effects largely depend on the quantity present as well as the health condition of the person who has been exposed to it. Inhaling small quantities of chlorine over short periods of time has adverse effects on a person’s respiratory system. Effects range from chest pains, coughing to water retention in the lungs. Chlorine causes irritation on the skin, respiratory system and the eyes. These effects are less likely to happen when exposed to normal chlorine levels in the environment. Mostly, chlorine effects on health are associated with breathing with some people developing adverse effects as a result of repeat exposure.

Exposure to high chlorine levels can cause blurred vision, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, vomiting, nausea, wheezing, and skin blisters. Exposure to high levels of chlorine can also cause lasting complications that lead to severe health problems. Chlorine exposure has no antidote. Treatment generally involves clearing the chlorine from the body system immediately and offering supportive medical care like inhaled breathing treatment for wheezing.

Effects of Chlorine on Environment

Chlorine dissolves in water and is capable of escaping from water into the air under specific condition. Most releases of chlorine into the environment occur through the air and water surfaces. Once in the water or air, chlorine reacts with other elements. It reacts with organic elements to form chlorinated organic compounds and with inorganic 

compounds in water to form chloride salts. ccChlorine is not capable of moving through the ground into ground water due to its reactive nature and animals and plants are less likely to store chlorine. However, studies show that prolonged chlorine exposure to the air affects immunity, heart, blood and respiratory systems in animals.

Removing Chlorine from Drinking Water

To reduce chlorine exposure through drinking water, add Drops of Balance to the water. Drops of Balance is a mineral concentrate that rids drinking water of all chlorine element within 24 hours making the water safe to drink

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