Chlorine has been used for a very long time to dispose unclean water. It is a chemical that prevents growth of bacteria in water. It is used in sanitation of sewage and industrial waste and is also present in cleaning products used in house-holds.
When chlorine comes in contact with water it forms hydrochloric acid and hydrochlorous acid which are poisonous in nature. Chlorine poisoning can occur when chlorine is inhaled, ingested or comes in contact with the skin or internal mucus membrane. The diagnosis and treatment of chlorine poisoning depends on the route and duration of exposure.
What Can Cause Chlorine Poisoning?
Most people are aware of the presence of chlorine in pool water. However, ingestion of pool water does not cause chlorine poisoning. When household cleaners are ingested or inhaled, it causes chlorine poisoning. It is extremely dangerous if you mix toilet bowl cleaner with bleach, as the mixture will release yellow-green chlorine gas which could be fatal if inhaled too much. Given below is a list of conditions in which you may be impacted with chlorine poisoning:
- When cleaning products are mixed with bleach or ammonia, it releases chloramine gas and cause bleach poisoning.
- When container containing chlorine is opened after being stored for a long time, it can release gas, which when inhaled can cause poisoning.
- Other sources of chlorine are mild cleaners, bleach products and tablets used in swimming pool water.
What Are the Symptoms of Chlorine Poisoning?
Chlorine poisoning can cause the symptoms to appear all over the body and affects most of the systems of the body. Some of the symptoms are given below:
- Difficulty in breathing, accumulation of fluid in lungs
- Burning sensation in mouth, swelling in the throat
- Throat and stomach pain, vomiting and presence of blood in stools
- Acid levels in body change, low blood pressure
- Burning and irritation of the eyes, temporary loss of vision
- Tissue damage, burns and irritation of the skin
When to See a Doctor
If anyone has come in contact with chlorine or has been exposed to it, they should be taken to the hospital immediately. If it is ingested, induced vomiting should not be tried unless suggested by poison control team or medical professional.
How to Deal with Chlorine Poisoning
When someone is exposed to chlorine, they can take the following steps to reduce the intensity of the chlorine poisoning:
- Evacuate the place where chlorine was released and get fresh air. In case the exposure occurs indoors, leave the place and move outdoors. If the exposure happens outside, move to another place, preferably with increased height. Chlorine gas is heavy and sinks to low lying areas.
- Remove the clothes which you were wearing during exposure and washing your body is recommended along with taking immediate medical attention. It is important to wash the body with soap and water, which will ensure that the chemical is removed from the body.
- Clothes which are contaminated by liquid chlorine and require to be removed over the head should be cut off from the body. Seal the contaminated clothes in a plastic bag and double bag it to prevent any further contamination. Handover the plastic bags to health department or emergency personnel and avoid direct contact with the part of the clothes which have chlorine on it.
- Wash with plain water for 10 – 15 minutes if a person's eyes has been contacted. In case the person is wearing contact lenses, the lenses should be removed and packed in plastic bag and then the eyes should be rinsed. These contact lenses should not be reused and should be disposed according to the instruction from medical professionals. Eye glasses should be washed with soap and water and can be reused after complete cleaning.
- If a person has ingested chlorine, vomiting should not be induced and medical attention should be sought immediately.
How to Prevent Chlorine Poisoning
Prevention of chlorine poisoning can be done by proper handling of chlorine and avoiding ingestion of any chlorine containing products. Any household products which contain chlorine should be placed away in locked cabinets and stored away from children. Also, before you use any products containing chloride, always read the instruction carefully.