Chlorine is a commonly used chemical that is added to drinking water and swimming pools to kill harmful bacteria. While chlorine has its benefits, exposure to high levels of chlorine can have adverse effects on the body. In this article, we will discuss the side effects of chlorine exposure and how to avoid them.
Side Effects Of Chlorine On Your Body
💠 Respiratory Effects
One of the most common side effects of inhaling chlorine is irritation of the respiratory tract. Chlorine is a potent irritant that can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and breathing difficulties. Long-term exposure to chlorine vapors can lead to reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS), a type of asthma caused by an irritating chemical.
💠 Skin Irritation
Direct contact with chlorine can result in chemical burns and blisters on the skin. Swimming in chlorinated pools may cause a swimmer’s itch or dermatitis. The high pH of chlorine damages the skin’s protective layers, allowing irritants and microbes to penetrate the skin more easily.
💠 Eye Damage
Chlorine exposure can cause eye irritation and damage. Gaseous chlorine or chlorine in swimming pools can result in red, swollen eyes. More severe exposures can damage the cornea and cause vision problems or even blindness.
💠 Gastrointestinal Effects
Ingesting water or food contaminated with high levels of chlorine can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. This can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
How Does Chlorine Enter Our Everyday Lives?
> Drinking Water
Chlorine is added to public drinking water supplies to eliminate disease-causing pathogens. While it makes drinking water safer, this also means we ingest small amounts of chlorine daily.
> Swimming Pools
The water in swimming pools is treated with chlorine to keep it clean and free of germs. Swimmers can inhale chlorine gases that evaporate from the water, as well as absorb chlorine through their skin from the water.
> Cleaning Products
Many household cleaners and disinfectants contain chlorine compounds like bleach. Using these products to clean the home introduces chlorine into the air and can cause respiratory irritation.
> Food Processing
Chlorine is used to sanitize food processing equipment and wash fruits and vegetables. Small amounts of chlorine can remain on food and be ingested.
Prevention Of Side Effects Of Chlorine On Our Body
- Avoid Enclosed Spaces with Chlorine: Try not to be in enclosed spaces where you can inhale high concentrations of chlorine fumes, like indoor swimming pools. Ensure proper ventilation when using chlorine-based household cleaners.
- Wear Protective Gear: When working with chlorine products, wear gloves, goggles, and masks to prevent skin, eye, and respiratory contact with chlorine.
- Rinse Off After Swimming: Take a shower after swimming to rinse chlorinated water off your skin and hair. This prevents skin irritation and absorption through the skin.
- Eat Antioxidants: Getting adequate vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium can help strengthen your defenses against chlorine due to their antioxidant effects.
- Use Safer Alternatives: Look for cleaner alternatives to chlorine products, like hydrogen peroxide or vinegar-based cleaners. Drink filtered water to remove chlorine while still eliminating pathogens.
Chlorine is invaluable for water treatment and disinfection. However, long-term exposure, especially at high concentrations, can negatively impact our health. Being aware of the side effects and taking proper precautions can allow us to safely reap the rewards of chlorine. Using safer alternatives when possible also reduces our risks. With some care, we can continue to benefit from chlorine’s bacteria-busting properties while minimizing any side effects.
A: Small amounts of chlorine are safe. However, high or frequent exposure, especially in enclosed spaces, can irritate the lungs, skin, eyes, and stomach. Long-term exposure may increase asthma and cancer risks.
A: Coughing, difficulty breathing, nausea, skin, and eye irritation indicate chlorine overexposure. Seek fresh air and medical help for severe symptoms.
A: Long-term risks of chlorine exposure include asthma, respiratory infections, eczema, and possibly cancer. High-level acute exposures can permanently damage the lungs and eyes.
A: Allow water to stand uncovered to let the chlorine dissipate. Boiling water for 5 minutes removes chlorine. Activated carbon filters, vitamin C tablets, and reverse osmosis systems also remove chlorine.
A: Properly chlorinated pools are safe. Avoid pools with strong odor/irritation. Shower after swimming, don’t swallow water and take breaks outside the pool to reduce chlorine exposure.