Chlorine, element No. 17 on the Periodic Table of Elements, has multiple applications. It is used to sterilize drinking water and to disinfect swimming pools, and it is used in the manufacturing of a number of commonly used products, such as paper, textiles, medicines, paints and plastic, particularly PVC. Moreover, chlorine is used in the development and manufacturing of materials used in various products.
In its natural gas form, it is harmful to human health. Chlorine is a respiratory irritant, and inhaling it may cause pulmonary edema — an excessive buildup of fluid in the lungs that can lead to breathing difficulties. The gas can also cause eye and skin irritation, or even severe burns and ulcerations.
Harmful effects of Chlorine
Chlorine has caused quite a stir among researchers over the years because of certain harmful effects it may have on human health. Those effects, however, remain debatable.
|Previous research has linked drinking chlorinated water to an increased cancer risk. For example, in a study published in 1992 in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that people who drank chlorinated water had a 21 percent higher risk of getting bladder cancer, and a 38 percent higher risk of getting rectal cancer, than people who drank nonchlorinated water. And, in another study, published in 2010 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, investigators found that people who swam in a chlorinated pool for 40 minutes had increased biomarkers (i.e., certain molecular indicators) related to cancer risk.|
However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have not classified chlorine as a human carcinogen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The lack of appropriate chlorination to kill harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, can have devastating consequences on human health and life. For example, in May 2000, in Walkerton, Ontario, seven people died and more than 2,300 got sick after the town’s water supply became infected with E. coli and other bacteria, according to the Water Quality and Health Council. If the required chlorine levels had been maintained, the disaster could have been prevented, even after the water was contaminated, according to a report published by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.