How Hazardous is Chlorine?
18th Century Swedish chemist, Carl Wilhelm Sheele discovered chlorine, French scientist Claude Bertholiet turned the compound into a bleaching agent and Scottish Chemist, Charles Tennant first produced the formula into a bleaching powder. Since then it has been used in virtually everything that surrounds modern societies today. Household cleaners, vinyl, plastics, wood pulp, and recycled paper, swimming pools and washing machines all contain chlorine in one form or another. Given the barrage of toxins people are exposed to on any given day, chlorine is one of the top 5. The question is, how hazardous is chlorine?
Questions Answered by a Pro
Stephen Ashkin is the director of environmental affairs and product development at a manufacturer of green, non-toxic cleaning products. He also has a degree in chemistry and spent a good amount of his childhood in his parent’s cleaning product company’s laboratory. In addition, he chaired the American Society for Testing and Materials; President Clinton’s Green Chemistry Challenge Task Force; and is an advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Environment Division. Mr. Ashkin offers some interesting points regarding the hazards of chlorine.
- Chlorine is often considered safe for the environment as it easily breaks down into salt and water. This is true in a controlled laboratory test tube setting, however, in the outside environment it bio-accumulates, releasing bi-products of organchlorines and dioxin.
- Paper production is the #1 chlorine culprit. It is used to break down the lignan which is the compound that holds wood fibers together. Then it is used to bleach the paper to make it white. The leftover wastewater is then dumped into streams and other waterways under the façade of its capability to safely breakdown into salt and water. Chlorine and its by-products combine with other lethal surfactants creating a slew of toxic organic chemicals.
It Makes its Way to You
As chlorine and its by-products leach into the environment, a chain reaction occurs. When natural waterways become polluted the fish become contaminated. Animals eat the fish and humans eat the fish and animals. Dioxins and other organic chemicals embed themselves into fatty tissue acting as hormone disrupters due to the fact that many mimic estrogen. The EPA has documented results of chlorine related conditions including hormonal imbalance, reproductive infertility, immune system suppression and fetal alteration in animals.
Chlorine does not seem to be going anywhere but into our food, paper and many dyes that off gas into our systems. Therefore, some of the best ways to protect yourself against chlorine and its by-product dioxins/organchlorines is to:
- Use chlorine-free paper, paper towels, napkins, tissues and toilet paper.
- Filter your water with a capable, high tech water filtration system.
- Avoid chlorine pools.
- Use chlorine-free household cleaning products.
- Purchase dye-free clothing.
The human system is often able to rid the body of toxins through special enzyme metabolism however chlorine is one of the few compounds that cannot be cleared. Knowing how hazardous chlorine is and being able to prevent exposure is essential.