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What are the Risks of Chlorine Exposure?

By Felicia Dye
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Chlorine is a naturally occurring chemical element. This element is used in numerous domestic and industrial products. Use of products containing this chemical is common and special permits and training are generally not required to obtain products that contain it. That does not mean, however, that it does not pose threats to humans’ health. Chlorine exposure can result in problems such as breathing difficulty and tissue damage.

The risks of chlorine exposure depend upon the severity. In this instance, severity refers to a combination of several factors. First, it must be considered how much chlorine a person is exposed to. Chlorine, in small quantities, can be placed in swimming pools or drinking water without posing risks. If, however, those dosages are dramatically increased, exposure is likely to have negative consequences.

Second, it is necessary to consider the manner in which the person was exposed. For example, if a person inhales large amounts of chlorine, he may experience breathing difficulty. Large amounts of chlorine absorbed through the skin can result in result in inflammation, severe burns, or blistering.

The third factor to consider is the length of the chlorine exposure. A person may be exposed to enough chlorine gas to induce coughing, for example. If that person immediately leaves the area and is exposed to a great deal of fresh air, it is likely that the brevity of exposure will not result in long-lasting effects.

A person who has been exposed to chlorine may be inflicted with numerous effects. He may begin to cough and experience feelings of tightness in his chest. When chlorine exposure is significant, accumulation of fluid in the lungs can result.

Chlorine in a gaseous form has adverse effects on moist tissues. This includes the eyes and lungs. Chlorine in the air, for example, poses a risk to the eyes.

Chlorine exposure can cause dermatological damage. When the substance is in the gaseous state the skin may become painful and a person may develop blisters. In a liquid form, the skin injury can be compared to one experienced when a person has frostbite.

Hospital treatment may be necessary in some instances of chlorine exposure. Even if this is the case, a person who suffers from sudden chlorine exposure will not generally experience permanent effects, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The exception to this, says the CDC, is when therapy is complicated by a condition such as pneumonia. When this happens, a person may develop chronic bronchitis.

The risks of chlorine exposure can often be avoided. Chlorine has a distinct smell, often described as a pungent egg-like odor. If those who work with or use the chemical are aware of this characteristic, it is likely that they will be able to identify the presence of the chemical. This can eliminate the likelihood of risky exposure to the chemical.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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