While chlorine is the second-most abundant halogen on the Earth, it is mainly found in the form of sodium chloride. Along with being included in various household products, chlorine is also widely used in numerous production industries. From acting as a natural disinfectant or pesticide to being essential for the production of pharmaceuticals and plastic, chlorine is of huge importance to humans. Besides, the fact that chlorine is one of the most commonly produced compounds in the United States highlights its significance. But what exactly makes chlorine so crucial? Here are ten reasons why chlorine is so important:
#1. Chlorine Is a Natural Disinfectant
The fact that chlorine is a natural disinfectant is the main reason why it is so important. By breaking chemical bonds in molecules, chlorine manages to easily kill various pathogens. According to the Food Technology Fact Sheet, chlorine bleach can be used as a sanitizer in food processing operations. However, you should follow some guidelines when sanitizing equipment or raw fruits and vegetables. Using chlorine as a disinfectant or sanitizer is totally safe as long as you consider the safety precautions.
#2. Chlorine Is Crucial for the Filtration of Drinking Water
Chlorination of drinking water is the addition of chlorine to water systems and reservoirs for disinfection purposes. Disinfection of drinking water is essential for killing bacteria that may cause various diseases or immediate illnesses. For some reason, people are worried about drinking chlorinated water. The truth is that countries set limits so that the amount of chlorine used for disinfecting drinking water does not lead to any health effects.
#3. Chlorine Is Added to Pools to Keep the Water Clean
When swimming in a pool, especially in a public one, you may become exposed to dangerous waterborne pathogens. Even if the water is crystal-clear, the pool might still be contaminated. To reduce the risks of getting sick from swimming in a pool, it is essential to use chlorine. Along with keeping the water clean by killing germs, chlorine ensures that it is totally safe for people to swim in the pool.
#4. Chlorine Is Important for the Production of Pharmaceuticals
Chlorine is widely used in the production of various drugs, ranging from chemotherapy agents to strong acids that adjust pH levels. There are two ways manufacturers use chlorine in the production of pharmaceuticals. In some cases, drugs contain chlorine in the dose form. On the other hand, the synthesis of certain medicines requires the use of chlorine-containing intermediates.
#5. Chlorine Is Used in the Manufacture of Paper and Paper Products
We all know that paper is made from cellulose and trees are the primary source of cellulose fiber. Naturally, wood-based paper is brown. However, the notebooks we write in consist of white pieces of paper. But how? This is because wood-based paper and paper products are then processed and bleached with chlorine, chlorine dioxide, or other chlorine derivatives. Although bleached paper products are pretty popular, chlorine-free papers are much more environmentally preferable.
#6. Chlorine Is Used in the Production of Paint
Chlorine is commonly used in the manufacture of paint and chlorinated rubber paint is the most popular option. Chlorinated rubber paint is a solvent-based paint that can be used for interior and exterior applications. The fact that chlorinated rubber is a strong, resilient, and incombustible resin makes the paint ideal for road markings and swimming pool coating.
#7. Chlorine Is Essential for the Production of PVC Plastic
Polyvinyl chloride, abbreviated as PVC, is a versatile polymer of plastic that offers a broad range of applications. The production of PVC requires chlorine, which is formed by the electrolysis of salt water. Then, chlorine is combined with ethylene to form vinyl chloride (VCM). Since VCM is a monomer, it must be polymerized into PVC. The resulting resin can be customized by incorporating the additives of choice.
#8. Chlorine Is Commonly Used in Pesticides
Chlorinated hydrocarbons are commonly used as pesticides. Some of the most widespread pesticides that include chlorine are aldrin, endrin, dieldrin, lindane, heptachlor, and chlordane. Although chlorinated pesticides are effective, they have serious environmental drawbacks. This is mainly because of their stability and resistance to environmental degradation. Besides, chlorinated pesticides do not really react with acids or bases and are pretty inert toward oxidation, reduction, and heat. Even though chlorinated pesticides are banned from use in most states of the US, nature still poses an ongoing threat due to the bioaccumulative properties of these pesticides.
#9. Chlorine Is Widely Used in Organic Chemistry
Halides, in general, are of huge importance in organic chemistry and synthesis reactions. Chlorine is a highly reactive oxidizing agent and is widely used in substitution reactions. Besides, organochlorine compounds are essential chemicals used for industrial purposes. While some organochlorine compounds are used as solvents, others act as intermediates in the preparation of other organic chemicals and synthetic polymers. For that reason, organochlorine compounds are commonly referred to as synthetic building blocks.
#10. Chlorine Gas Can Be Used as a Chemical Weapon
Chlorine in gaseous form is toxic and is known as a pulmonary irritant. The toxicity of chlorine gas depends on the amount and duration of exposure. At low concentrations (1 to 3ppm), gaseous chlorine irritates eyes and oral mucous membrane. At medium concentrations (around 15ppm), pulmonary symptoms appear. At higher concentrations (430pm), exposure to chlorine gas can lead to fatal results within 30 minutes. This is why chlorine gas was used as a chemical weapon during World War I. Nowadays, using gaseous chlorine as a weapon is prohibited.